Women now Colorado’s top voting bloc
DENVER, Colorado ” What a difference four years makes in Colorado’s political landscape.
The state has become more female, more Democratic and older since George W. Bush handily won Colorado’s nine electoral votes in 2004.
A Rocky Mountain News analysis of voter data in 2004 and 2008 found:
– The dominant voting bloc in the state has shifted from Republican men to Democratic women.
– The percentage of young voters is less than it was four years ago, while the percentage of senior voters has risen since 2004.
– The number of female voters continued to rise. They now outnumber male voters by more than 100,000.
The changing demographics underscore how Colorado has become a battleground state this year after decades of Republican Party dominance in presidential elections.
“It would certainly help account for Colorado’s swing status,” said Bob Duffy, chairman of the political science department at Colorado State University.
Both political parties have reason for optimism.
Higher registration numbers among Democrats and women favor Barack Obama’s bid in Colorado, while the aging trend could help Republican John McCain, researchers and analysts said.
In 2004, 18.7 percent ” or almost one in five voters ” were male Republicans. This year, it is Democratic women who comprise almost one in five voters, or 19.2 percent of the electorate. Republican men have slipped to 17 percent.
Colorado has a very mobile population, said Ken Bickers, chairman of the political science department at the University of Colorado. And as people leave one place and settle in another, they tend to rethink their political affiliation when they re-register to vote, he said.
Bickers thinks there has been a shift with some women re-registering from unaffiliated to Democratic and some men moving from the Republican column to unaffiliated.
The analysis shows that the percentage of women voters in Colorado continues to rise, another trend that favors Democrats, analysts said.
Duffy said the swiftness in the state’s demographic change has been surprising.
Four years ago, Republicans had a 180,000 edge over Democrats. Now it is less than 15,000, leaving the state almost evenly divided among Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters. Among active voters, Democrats have a slight lead, the analysis showed.
However, the aging trend could help McCain keep Colorado a red state, analysts said.
The analysis showed that the percentage of voters between 18 and 25 is slightly lower this year than in 2004 ” 13.5 percent vs. 13.9 percent. At the same time, the percentage of voters 65 and over rose to 15 percent from 13.7 percent four years ago.
“It’s easy to go to campuses like this one and see large numbers of excited kids,” said CU’s Bickers. “But Colorado is actually aging.”
McCain’s strongest support is among older voters, he said.
That explains why he made a campaign stop in Pueblo, a traditional Democratic stronghold, earlier this month, Bickers said. Pueblo West is a large retirement community, he said.
Political pundits are split on how the demographic shift will play out this November.
Analyst Eric Sondermann said the registration shift bodes well for Democratic candidates in Colorado.
“Democrats were winning even when there was 180,000 more of the opposition,” Sondermann said. “Now, it’s a dead heat in terms of registration.”
But analyst and Republican consultant Katy Atkinson said it will still come down to voter turnout, especially for Democrats. “The real key is turnout versus registration,” she said.
Of Colorado’s 3,193,660 registered voters, 33.2 percent are Republicans, 32.8 percent are Democrats and 33.4 percent are unaffiliated.
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