Republican voters are leaving the party in droves after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Tens of thousands of GOP voters switched their party affiliations in the days following the deadly riot aimed at keeping former president Donald Trump in office, and voting experts told the New York Times the shift was unusual after a presidential election and represented a dangerous pattern for the Republican Party.
"Since this is such a highly unusual activity, it probably is indicative of a larger undercurrent that's happening, where there are other people who are likewise thinking that they no longer feel like they're part of the Republican Party, but they just haven't contacted election officials to tell them that they might change their party registration," said Michael McDonald, a political science professor at the University of Florida. "So this is probably a tip of an iceberg."
Nearly 140,000 Republicans quit the party in 25 states, according to readily available data, compared to 79,000 Democrats who left their party since early January, and the biggest spikes in GOP abandonment came in the days immediately following the insurrection, with most of those Republican voters changing their status to unaffiliated.
"What happened in D.C. that day, it broke my heart," said Juan Nunez, a 56-year-old an Army veteran from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. "It shook me to the core." More than 10,000 Republicans have left the party in Arizona, where the state GOP has moved to censure Gov. Doug Ducey, former Senator Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain for perceived disloyalty to the former president.
"The Arizona GOP has just lost its mind," said Heidi Ushinski, a 41-year-old Arizona voter who switched her affiliation to the Democratic Party.
Ushinski has switched her party affiliation twice in the past to vote against specific primary candidates, but she told the Times she feels out of place in the current GOP.
"I look up to the Jeffry Flakes and the Cindy McCains," she said. "To see the GOP go after them, specifically, when they speak in ways that I resonate with just shows me that there's nothing left in the GOP for me to stand for, and it's really sad."
Lifelong Republican Michael Taylor, the mayor of Sterling Heights, Michigan, had already voted for Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election before changing his registration after the state GOP helped push conspiracy theories that fed the insurrection.
"There was enough before the election to swear off the GOP, but the incredible events since have made it clear to me that I don't fit into this party," Taylor said. "It wasn't just complaining about election fraud anymore. They have taken control of the Capitol at the behest of the president of the United States, and if there was a clear break with the party in my mind, that was it."