Pennsylvania loses status as swing state
By Adam Smeltz
Published: Thursday, Oct. 11, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
A voter boom that helped shape the 2008 presidential race has slowed in Pennsylvania, where both major parties have lost thousands of registered voters headed into the Nov. 6 election.
State officials listed 8.41 million registered voters this week, down 4 percent from nearly 8.76 million in November 2008. Last-minute applications processed on or after the registration deadline on Tuesday this week should buoy the final tally but probably not enough to catch 2008 levels, political analysts say.
“We're not really a swing state this time around. It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing,” said Jeff Brauer, a professor of political science at Keystone College in Bradford County. “The attention isn't here.
“I think the whole state is kind of feeling that lack of attention,” he said, noting polls consistently show President Obama with the lead in Pennsylvania.
Voter registration typically grows from one presidential election cycle to the next, having last slumped in 1988, according to state data. Pennsylvania's longtime position as a well-populated swing state — winnable by both Republicans and Democrats — had made it a perennial focal point for campaign advertising, candidate visits and get-out-the-vote programs.
Voter registration gathered momentum particularly in the 2008 contest, in which Pennsylvania's rolls swell about 5 percent from 2004. Both sides made it a primary goal to register new voters, especially young people, said political analyst Gerald Shuster.
This year, however, “the Democrats in particular are not aggressively pursuing this as compared to 2008. It's pretty evident,” said Shuster, who lectures at the University of Pittsburgh.
Registered Democrats in Pennsylvania numbered 4.2 million as of Monday, down 264,990 from November 2008. The Republican Party counted 3.1 million voters, a decline of 128,178. The state population grew roughly 3 percent in the same period.
County election officials pull names from the rolls when voters move from Pennsylvania, die or otherwise go inactive for an extended period of years. It's unclear how many total voters that officials have pulled for inactivity.
Allegheny County reported dropping 50,000 voters in 2009 when it last completed a major purge.
President Obama's estimated lead in Pennsylvania has ranged from 2 to 10 percentage points in recent opinion polls. Two autumn surveys by Susquehanna Polling and Research — one conducted Sept. 23 for the Tribune-Review — showed Republican nominee Mitt Romney with 45 percent and Obama with 47 percent of likely voters.
Observers also point to several other factors influencing the voter numbers, now close to 2004 levels.
“I think in times of economic struggle, people are more inward-looking,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a political analyst at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
He suggested financial stresses may depress voter interest. And given the economic downturn, would-be voters may be more jaded over political gridlock in Washington, he said.
“It's not unprecedented for an election to have fewer votes than the previous election,” he said.
The 1996 race, when then-President Bill Clinton won re-election, logged fewer votes than the prior cycle. His Republican opponent was Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas.
Skelley's center expects national Election Day turnout of 60 percent among the voting-age population, down from 62 percent in November 2008.
Staff writer Jodi Weigand contributed to this report. Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Orpik: Penguins must keep their cool
- Penguins’ Bylsma wants Cup version of Letang
- Pirates trade for Mets first baseman Davis
- York teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom
- ‘We Are FR’ fund going strong
- Latrobe woman texts searchers in Linn Run State Park to tell them she’s OK
- RiverQuest short of money, looks for a partner
- Rossi: Pens sticking to power-play plan
- Police say Latrobe woman bought gun for boyfriend, who shot neighbor
- Cyrus’ rescheduled U.S. tour now includes Pittsburgh stop in August
- Alvarez struggles as Pirates fall short against Brewers