Since the 2016 election, Democrats have not been at a loss for good news in New Jersey. Besides winning back the governorship and temporarily being in control of 11 of the state’s 12 congressional districts, Democrats have increased their voter registration advantage over Republicans both statewide, and within key battleground congressional districts.
Democrats are also within striking distance of overtaking Unaffiliated voters as the largest group of registered voters within the state, having cut the gap dramatically over the past few years. `
During the 2016 election, Unaffiliateds had a sizable plurality of voters, with 43.2% of New Jersey voters being registered to no party. Democrats at the time accounted for 35.6% of voters, and Republicans accounted for 20.8%. Unaffiliateds held a 7.6% advantage over Democrats, and Democrats held a 14.82% advantage over Republicans.
Democrats shaved 6.56% off of the Unaffiliated registration advantage since November 2016, and have increased their advantage over the Republicans to 16.1%.n As of June 2020, Unaffiliated voters remain the largest single group in the state with approximately 39% of voters not registering to a party. Democrats however are in a close second with 37.9% of voters registering to the party. Republicans have increased their share of voters 1% to 21.82%.
Democrats held a 3% advantage over Republicans in the 2nd district in 2016 and a 2.3% one in the 3rd. Republicans meanwhile held a .5% advantage in the 5th, a 3.2% advantage in the 7th, and a 2.5% one in the 11th.
Democrats flipped the 5th district in 2016 when Josh Gottheimer unseated 7-term Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage), and the 2nd, 3rd, 7th, and 11th in the 2018 mid-terms — although Rep Jeff Van Drew (R-Dennis) switched parties in the winter of 2020, resulting in the 2nd flipping back to the Republicans.
All but one of these districts has shifted towards the Democrats in voter registration.
The 2nd district has the smallest shift of the 5, only trending .15% towards the Democrats. Meanwhile the Democrats have flipped the registration advantage in the 5th, 7th, and 11th districts, swinging the 5th by 2%, the 7th by 3.4%, and the 11th by 2.7%.
Republicans have gained slightly in the 3rd, cutting the Democratic advantage by 0.3%. As of June 2020, the Democrats hold a 3.15% advantage in registration in the 2nd, a 2% one in the 3rd, 1.6% in the 5th, 0.2% in the 7th, and 0.2% in the 11th.
Democrats currently hold a registration advantage over Republicans in 11 out of the state’s 12 Congressional Districts, with the Republicans holding a 4.1% advantage in the 4th district. Registration was not necessarily predictive of margins as in 2018.
Democrats in the 5th, and 11th drastically outran the Democratic advantage over Republicans, while Rep. Christopher Smith (R-Hamilton) an ahead of the Republican edge in the 4th.
But these trends are not favorable for the Republicans and the Democratic rise in registration in New Jersey shows no signs of stopping in the near future, and Democrats are poised to become the largest group in the state within the next year.
Some good news remains for the GOP as they are slightly cutting into the Democratic margin in the 3rd, one of the districts they hope to compete in this fall, and the Democratic advantage in the 7th district is still a minor one.
Ben Kestenbaum is a New Jersey Globe contributor.