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San Diego Voter Demographics Signal Permanent Power Shift, Report Says

Registered voters in the city of San Diego between 2005 and 2012.
National University System Institute for Policy Research
Registered voters in the city of San Diego between 2005 and 2012.

Changes in San Diego voter demographics that became apparent with the election of Bob Filner as mayor are probably permanent, with the city's political power shifting toward independents and residents south of Interstate 8, according to a study released today.

Changing Voter Demographics
A report from National University System Institute for Policy Research on changing voter demographics in San Diego.
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The National University System Institute for Policy Research found that Mayor Bob Filner's election victory over ex-Councilman Carl DeMaio was fueled by voters south of the freeway that runs through Mission Valley. The freeway is a traditional, but not entirely accurate, dividing line between economic "haves'' and "have-nots'' and a border between Republican- and Democratic-leaning enclaves.

"Moving forward, in order to remain competitive, Democratic and Republican candidates will have to pay greater attention to the issues of voters who live in San Diego's older urban core,'' the authors wrote. "We would expect issues like homelessness, public transit and the quality of San Diego Unified Schools to become a permanent part of the electoral dialogue.''


Filner, who had been a 10-term congressman representing the South Bay, won nearly every precinct south of the freeway, where the population is much denser, according to the report.

Filner was the first Democrat to win a San Diego mayoral election since Maureen O'Connor in 1988, picking up 52.5 percent of the vote to beat the Republican DeMaio for the technically nonpartisan office.

The study also found that since 2005, Democrats in San Diego have gained nearly 36,500 registered voters, while Republicans lost almost 18,500.

Republicans traditionally overcome registration disadvantages in San Diego, but the GOP's disadvantage of almost 34,000 voters in October 2005 ballooned to almost 89,000 voters in October 2012, according to the report.

The biggest change, however, was for independents. The authors said the rolls of decline-to-state voters swelled by more than 48,000 registrants to eclipse the GOP as the second-largest group in the city of San Diego as of this October.


Democrats must be considered the favorites in future citywide elections, but independents will be decisive.

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