FLORIDA Perception vs. Reality
The state's reputation lags recognition of its importance as a swing state.
"The first myth is that everyone in Florida is old and the only people that move here are old retirees, and that's certainly not true anymore — we have the registration figures that show now that 51% of registered voters are over 50 and 49% are under. I'd say the biggest change is Florida's power on the national political stage is well-recognized and gets stronger by the day. It's because the population has become very polarized, just like the rest of the country. Look back to the 2010 governor's race, which was 1% difference between the two candidates, and that's not atypical, and everybody I've looked at, everyone who's created swing state maps, puts Florida in the top five and a lot of them put Florida No. 1 as the biggest swing state this year."
— Susan MacManus, distinguished professor of public administration
and political science at the University of South Florida
[Photo: Larry Downing/Reuters]
The legacy of the 2000 presidential vote in Florida still colors the perception of Florida both inside and outside the state. In 2009 while on a trip to Nigeria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared electoral corruption there to the balloting in Florida. Answering a question about Nigeria's election, Clinton said, "In 2000, our presidential election came down to one state where the brother of the man running for president was the governor of the state. So we have our problems too."
[Photo: AP/J. Applewhite]
By the Numbers (November 2011)
• 11. 2 million — Registered voters in Florida
• 41% are Democrats
• 36% are Republicans
• 20% are independents (no party affiliation)
• 3% belong to other parties
» Since the 2008 general election, the percentage of Republicans has remained the same at 36%. Registered Democrats dropped 1%, and the ranks of independents rose 1%.
» The biggest gains in Republican registration have come in the media markets of Tampa Bay (+2.7%), Palm Beach (+2.4%) and Naples (+1.6%). The sharpest losses have occurred in Tallahassee (-4.3%), Gainesville (-2.5%) and Jacksonville (-2.2%).
» Nearly one-third of the state's 4.5 million registered Democrats live in three counties in south Florida — Miami-Dade (11.5%), Broward (12.4%) and Palm Beach (8.2%) — a trend that, along with the 2002 GOP-led redistricting, has diluted Democrats' power in the state Capitol. Despite their 451,000-voter registration advantage in the state, Democrats occupy only 38 of 120 seats in the Florida House and 12 of 40 in the Florida Senate.
Source: Florida Division of Elections, Sayfie Review