A rising proportion of Sacramento-area residents are opting not to affiliate with the nation's two major political parties and instead identify with no political party, according to a Bee review of new voter registration data from the region's four counties.
And a significant number of the region’s conservatives now affiliate with the far-right American Independent Party instead of the Republican Party, the data show.
Democrats and Republicans still dominate voter registration in the Sacramento region, but their influence appears to be on the decline. About 39 percent of the region’s voters are Democrats, compared to 45 percent in 2000. Roughly 34 percent of voters are Republican, compared to 38 percent in 2000.
Democrats are most prevalent in Sacramento and Yolo Counties, while Republicans are most prevalent in El Dorado and Placer counties. The proportion of Democrats and Republicans declined markedly in each of the region’s four counties between 2000 and 2016.
Many Democrats or Republicans have been replaced by “no party preference” voters. Roughly 22 percent of the region’s voters decline to state a party preference, up from 12 percent in 2000.
Since 2010, the number of voters registering with a third party has increased; the largest factor in that increase is the rise of the American Independent Party. The number of the region’s voters affiliated with the American Independent Party rose by about 6,000, or 23 percent, from 2010 to 2016. By comparison, the number of registered voters overall grew by just 2 percent.
The American Independent Party was formed in Bakersfield in 1967. Its first candidate for president was the segregationist George Wallace, who carried five southern states. More recently, the party selected former conservative radio host and ambassador Alan Keyes as its 2008 presidential candidate. Among the party’s platform planks are “marriage between a man and a woman,” “opposition to illegal immigration,” “our great pro-life constitution,” and “all governments under God,” according to the party’s website. In the Sacramento region, the party is most popular in El Dorado County.
In practical terms, those who refuse to state a party preference can vote in Democratic, Libertarian and American Independent presidential primaries, but not Republican presidential primaries.
These charts summarize the trends:
Sources: Current data: county election offices | Historical data: California Secretary of State