One of the big questions of the 2016 Presidential primaries has been whether Donald Trump expanded the GOP electorate. This is a complicated question, and to date, the best evidence of this is the record turnout in several of the GOP contests. But who are these voters turning out in record numbers? Are they past registered Republicans who have decided to vote in the primaries, newly registered Republicans, or individuals who have recently switched parties? To provide answers rather than speculation, NBC News has entered into a data partnership with a leading voter-file company in the United States – TargetSmart – to get to the bottom of these numbers. All of the analyses in this article have been conducted independently by the NBC News Data Analytics Lab.
We answer this question by examining those who are either newly registered as Republicans or Democrats in the State of Florida between November 30, 2015 and January 31st, 2016, or who switched parties during that same period. The data shows that within that time frame 63,927 moved or joined the Democratic party while 84,142 became Republicans.
What's the take-away? Clearly, more people moved to the Republican party during this two month window. That said, there is only a difference of a bit more than 20,000 voters. This is a pretty small number in comparison to the roughly 12 million active voters registered in Florida, so at least in this state that record turnout on the Republican side would be a result of previously registered Republicans turning out to vote, and not because of a wave of newly registered voters coming into the party.
Data analysis conducted by the NBC News Data Analytics Lab in conjunction with the Penn Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies. Voter file data, collected by TargetSmart, contains information on most voters' turnout history and selected demographic information. Florida voter file data is current as of January 31, 2016. Early and absentee vote data is current as of March 9, 2016.