BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Numbers released by the California Secretary of State's office show Kern County's Republican party is shrinking.
About 4.76 million California voters are registered as Republicans, about 400,000 fewer than at this point in 2012. While these numbers are significant, voters shouldn't expect Kern County to back a Democratic presidential candidate any time soon, said Jeanine Kraybill, a political science professor at California State University, Bakersfield.
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"Kern County hasn't elected a Democratic president since 1964 with Lyndon Johnson," Kraybill said. "I would still predict that they'll still rally behind the Republican nominee when you look at the demographics of the county."
According to the 2016 figures, Republicans still outnumber Democrats at 38.6 percent to 35.6 percent of the population of registered voters. Kraybill said a more overall consistent figure is the rise of independents, which grew by 500,000 across the state since the last presidential election.
"What we're seeing across the board in this country is a rise of independents in general," Kraybill said. "The Pew Research Center has stated that 24 percent of Americans view both Democrats and Republicans unfavorably."
The Democratic party has experienced slight growth both statewide and in Kern County since 2012. Of all registered voters in the Golden State, 7.44 million identify as Democratic. In Kern County, currently 116,475 voters registered as Democrat. That's an increase from 109,726 back in 2012. Despite this increase, Kraybill said this year's election is going to boil down to the nominee who can best appeal to the independent voters.
"The story's really going to be from whomever these presumptive nominees are, how it is they capture these independents and how they get them to give one candidate or party their loyalty vis a vis the other," she said.
Eyewitness news reached out to the Kern County Republican Party and Kern County Democratic Party for comment and did not receive a response.
California holds its primary June 7.