The Rise and Fall of the NPPs

The Secretary of State’s office has posted the 88-Day Report of Registration meaning we can see a breakdown of voters’ registration by political party as of March 11.  The report has tons of data; most of it as expected.  The one, arguably surprising, trend that has continued for the last few years is a decrease in the number of voters registered as NPP – No Party Preference.  Yes, we said, decrease.

This is not the first time we have seen a decrease in the number of NPPs, yet the decline continues to be a big topic of conversation around the water cooler.  Just a few years ago, Barack Obama was President, partisanship was waning, and the number of NPPs continued to rise while the number of Republicans continued to decline.  In February 2016, John Myers, Sacramento Bureau Chief for the L.A. Times wrote “…new voter registration data show another shift away from party affiliation…”  

By May 2018, there were more NPPs than Republicans making NPPs the second largest voting group and moving Republicans to third place.  There were 4,469,299 (25.07%) Republicans and 4,852,817 (25.51%) NPPs. 

Just 16 years prior, NPPs were a minor group known as Decline-to-State.  In February 2002, the Report of Registration had 5,354,358 (35.04%) Republicans and 2,254,819 (14.76%) NPPs. Their turnout rate was lower than those voters who were affiliated with a party and they played only a small role in the outcome of most elections.

So, what happened?  NPPs were the second largest voting bloc in 2018.  Just four years later, they are back in third place: as of March 11, 2022, the number of NPP voters was 5,026,623 (22.81%).  That’s down almost 3% in four years.  Super hyper partisanship is causing new voters to register with a political party, even if it’s not with a traditional D or R party.  All qualified political parties, except for Republicans, increased from 2020 to 2022.  

There is more information about one of these qualified political parties, the so-called American Independent Party, in this week’s edition.  Here is a link.  Calpeek will update the data when the next Report of Registration is released.  Until then, please enjoy these highlights of the 88-Day Report of Registration:

26,958,335 – Total Registered Voters in California

10,300,858 (46.74%) – Democrats

5,271,605 (23.92%) – Republicans

742,581 (3.37%) – American Independent

91,636 (.42%) – Green

233,099 (1.01%) – Libertarian

115,833 (.53%) – Peace & Freedom

115,888 (.53%) – Unknown*

150,121 (.68%) – Other*

5,026,623 (22.81%) – No Party Preference

 *Note: “Unknown” are voters who did not select a party preference.  “Other” are voters who selected a political party that has not qualified in California.


1 Comment
  1. Nice piece, but just curious. Why do you consider NPPs separate from third-party independents? Since few third-party candidates make Top 2, NPPs and Indie voters essentially play the same role in the Top-two general election run-off. The combined NPP/Indie figure peeked in 2018 at 30.0% of all registered voters, but has only declined a tad since to presently 29.3%. So while the NPP share declined by about 2 points from 25% in 2018, the “other” (or indie) category gained 1½ points. Again just curious. Love the publication.

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