Republican Primary Voters: Where to find them

As the Republican mayoral primary heats up, the candidates face a fundamental challenge: finding their primary voters in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City.  To develop a more detailed understanding of the Republican search for primary voters, we’ve been doing some analysis of voter registration and voter activity (as well as answering candidate robocalls).  This first step in our analysis focuses on registered voters.  We will discuss voting patterns, likely voters and turnout in a later post.

The table below lays out current Republican registration in New York City by county, with three additional statistics included.  The first additional statistic is registered Republican voters as a percentage of total registered voters, the second is registered Republican voters as a percentage of the total population and the third is all registered voters as a percentage of the total population.

Republican Registration – The Numbers:

Total Republican registration in the five boroughs stood at 533,000 in 1996, peaked at 562,000 in 2004 and declined to 503,000 in 2012.

The counties range from a low in the Bronx of 45,000 voters to a high of 134,000 in Queens.  Staten Island, Manhattan and Brooklyn come in with 80,000, 114,000 and 127,000, respectively.  Purely on the gross numbers, Republican voters are fairly well spread among the counties.

Republican Registration – Finding Them Among All Voters:

A look at registered Republicans as a percentage of all registered voters gives a different perspective:  Citywide, Republicans are a mere 10.8% of all registered voters, with a low of 6.4% in the Bronx and a high in Staten Island of 28.9%.  Even the most Republican county has a very modest percentage of its voters as registered Republicans.

It’s immediately apparent that finding Republican primary voters among the sea of other voters is a challenge.  While some campaign methods, especially direct mail, can be micro-targeted at registered voters of the applicable party, many methods are not so controllable.  To reach voters through television and radio advertising or on the street campaigning, for example, candidates only have imprecise ways of gauging who they will likely connect with in any particular outreach.  With such low percentages of voters enrolled as Republicans, most campaign methods will result in substantial wasted money and effort.


Republican Registration – Finding Them Among All New Yorkers:

Another meaningful statistic is registered Republicans as a percentage of the total population.  This statistic shows, out of every woman, man and child in each county, how many are registered Republicans and therefor sought after by the candidates.  Again, it shows the difficult challenge Republican candidates face in reaching anyone who can actually vote for them in the primary.

Just over 6% of all New Yorkers are registered Republicans.  The counties range from a low of 3.3% in the Bronx to a high of 17.2% in Staten Island, with Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan coming in at 5.1%, 6% and 7.2%, respectively.

All Voters – How Many New Yorkers are Registered?

This statistic isn’t really part of our primary campaign analysis as it includes all registered voters, regardless of party.  It does have relevance to the general election and the potential relative influence that each borough will have.  In simple terms, if you’re not registered you can’t vote and therefor won’t matter in the general election.

The analysis shows a nearly 20 percentage point difference from highest to lowest percentages registered.  In Manhattan, the number of all registered voters equals 70% of the total population, while Queens barely makes 50%.  There are undoubtedly many potential factors affecting this percentage for each county, from the relative size of the population under 18 to the number of undocumented residents, each therefor ineligible to register, to mention just two.  This quick calculation also does not consider whether the registration numbers in Manhattan are somehow distorted upward.  That analysis needs more thorough research and discussion than we’ve done so far.  Stay tuned.


County Registered Repub. Voters Total Registered Voters Registered Republicans as % of all Reg. Voters Total Pop. Registered Republicans as % of Total Population Registered Voters as % of Total Pop.
Bronx 45,977 710,436 6.47% 1,385,108 3.32% 51.29%
Kings 127,397 1,424,479 8.94% 2,504,700 5.09% 56.87%
New York 114,479 1,109,781 10.32% 1,585,873 7.22% 69.98%
Queens 134,404 1,116,578 12.04% 2,230,722 6.03% 50.05%
Richmond 80,779 279,148 28.94% 468,730 17.23% 59.55%
Total 503,036 4,640,422 10.84% 8,175,133 6.15% 56.76%
Note:  Voter registration statistics are from the New York State Board of Elections, as of November 1st in each year referenced.  I’ve used presidential election year enrollment statistics.  The most recent available enrollment statistics available for this post were as of November 1, 2012.  The total population statistics are from the 2010 federal census, as reported by the New York City Department of City Planning.