Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Democratic Party of Wisconsin History Project - DPW Membership Data 1998 to 2008

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is a membership organization, and membership dues are its single largest source of income. Thus, membership levels are an important indication of the health and vitality of the party, both at the county and state levels. Unfortunately, membership data is one of those things that tends to get lost when physical records are moved or computer systems are updated, so I've created a spreadsheet containing DPW membership by county from 1998 to 2008 and uploaded it to Google Docs.

Historical membership data like this is invaluable for determining the factors that drive party membership, evaluating membership building efforts, and holding party leaders accountable for their success or failure in building the party. Yet many county parties do not have accurate historical records because standard DPW membership reports only cover the prior two years, and older records are often lost when county party leadership changes. It also appears that much of the DPW's membership info prior to 1998, which is when the current membership database was developed, is inaccessible or missing.

For these reasons I've created a permanent depository for this data. If anybody has DPW statewide or county membership info prior to 1998, even if it's incomplete or fragmentary, please contact me (russwallac@aol.com) and I'll add it to the database. It would be great to be able to look back over the years and see the broad trends and issues that have affected the Democratic party in Wisconsin.


Here are some notes on the data. They're included at the bottom of the spreadsheet, but they're hard to read online:

1. I have conflicting data for Menominee County for 2006. One source gives a partial year count of 3, while other sources do not show Menominee County as an active party unit after 2005.

2. Although listed separately in 2005, Waupaca and Waushara Counties were combined that year with a joint membership of 150.

3. The DPW incorrectly lists the 2005 membership total as 9116. This is a result of counting Waupaca and Waushara counties twice: As separate county parties and as a combined party unit.

4. Prior to 2003 there are discrepancies between the county membership sums and the official DPW totals, particularly in 2002 and 2001, as shown below. I can't resolve these differences with the data available to me.

Year - County total - DPW total - Difference

2002 ----- 8352 ----- 8594 ----- 242
2001 ----- 8262 ----- 8389 ----- 127
2000 ----- 7489 ----- 7495 ----- 6
1999 ----- 7410 ----- 7414 ----- 4
1998 ----- 7356 ----- 7362 ----- 6
1997 ----- 6097

5. DPW membership for other years:

Year - Membership
1972 --- 18,410
1967 --- ~8000
1964 --- ~27,000

(According to The history of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, 1949-1999, the huge drop between 1964 and 1967 was due to President Johnson's support for the Vietnam War)


Rich said...

Nice work! but it seems I can't access the google doc

Russell Wallace said...

Sorry, I'll try to figure out what's going on and get it fixed.

Russell Wallace said...

I mucked around with the permissions and it seems to be working now. If anybody still has problems please let me know.

Northwoods said...

Interesting data.

Membership seems to spike in Presidential years. Though YR2000 was an anomoly. People woke up after GW got into office.

I sorted the list by who grew the most in the last year. I wonder what Racine, La Crosse, and especially Polk county did to grow their membership? Perhaps the rest of the state could learn a thing or two from them.

On the flip side, it's curious to see ol' reliable Democratic Dane County slip in membership.

Russell Wallace said...

The recent trend in Dane County shows what can happen when a local party doesn't have an active membership program. Even in an area as solidly Democratic as Dane County the party still has to put some effort into attracting new members. As an aside, it looks to me like the Dane Dems board hasn't exactly grasped the severity of their problem. The 2010 budget I saw at the last meeting seemed rather unrealistic, to put it mildly.

I believe that Racine, La Crosse, and Polk Counties all benefited from working closely with the Obama campaign last year, something that didn't happen here in Dane County. A missed opportunity.

Might be interesting to make some charts showing the membership trends. If I get some free time...