Political Animal


July 09, 2012 11:59 AM Post-2008 Demographic Changes

By Ed Kilgore

One of the great truisms (because it’s true!) about contemporary politics is that the Republican Party is trying to have as great an impact on public policy as possible before demographic trends make its old-white-male electoral base a permanent minority—at which time, of course, GOP pols may discover a new interest in darker and younger voters, it they haven’t alienated them for decades to come.

But are these demographic trends happening fast enough to have an impact on this year’s elections? At TNR today, the co-author of that highly prescient 2002 book, The Emerging Democratic Majority, Ruy Teixeira, compares data from the Census/BLS Current Population Surveys for November of 2008 and May of 2012 and concludes they could have an immediate impact:

Minorities, 80 percent of whom supported Obama in 2008, have increased their share of eligible voters across the time period by around 3 percentage points. (About three-fifths of this is from Hispanics, most of the rest from Asians and those of “other race.”) White working class voters, whom Obama lost by 18 points, have decreased their share of eligible voters by about the same amount. And white college-educated voters, whom Obama lost by only 4 points, were roughly stable (a very slight 2 percent uptick in their share of eligibles.)

Looking at the “battleground states,” Teixeira finds more variation:

Looking first at the Mountain West, the two key states here are Nevada and Colorado… Nevada is the nation’s leader in demographic change: Between 2008 and 2012, the minority share of eligible voters increased by an astonishing 9 points, more than 2 points a year. Minorities are now almost 40 percent of Nevada’s eligible voters. At the same time, the share of white non-college eligibles has declined by over 5 points in the state and white college eligibles by 3 points.
Colorado has also experienced a high level of demographic change in the last four years, if not quite in Nevada’s league. The share of minority eligible voters has grown by over three points—almost entirely from Hispanics—and there has been a roughly equal decline in the share of white working class eligibles, by far Obama’s worst group in the state.
Turning to the New South swing states of North Carolina and Florida, there have also been sizable demographic shifts over the last four years. In North Carolina, the minority share of eligible voters has gone up over 4 points, with simultaneous declines of around 2 points in both white college and white non-college eligibles. In Florida, the increase in minority share has also been about 4 points, while white working class eligibles have declined 3 points and white college eligibles by 1 point.

Beyond these states, Teixeira finds, the changes have been less significant, with Wisconsin registering slightly less change than NC and FL; followed by Michigan, Pennsylvania and Virginia with less than WI; and then IA and OH showing virtually no change. New Hampshire, interestingly enough, registered no increase in the eligible minority population, but did show a significant shift within the white electorate from non-college to college-educated voters.

Stereotypes die hard, and journalists are often surprised at the emergence or disappearance of this or that state from the electoral “battleground.” But the trends Teixeira examines may help explain why Obama could quite possibly win North Carolina while losing Iowa, which not much of anyone would have imagined immediately after 2008.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • stormskies on July 09, 2012 12:14 PM:

    White working class voters, whom Obama lost by 18 points...........

    Fucking incredible. Just think how incredibly stupid these people actually are. Voting against a person's whose policies directly affect and improve their lives, and voting for a person or party whose policies make their miserable lives even worse.

    Stupid is two kind of a word actually. Not sure what the right word would be...maybe cretins would apply.

  • c u n d gulag on July 09, 2012 12:18 PM:

    I believe the word you're looking for, is "MORANS!" (sic)

  • c u n d gulag on July 09, 2012 12:23 PM:

    And that is why, in states with Republican legislatures and/or Governors, they are fiercely fighting these declining numbers of their supporters by slashing as many younger, darker, and female people, who might support their opposition, off the voter rolls as they can, through voter suppression.

  • schtick on July 09, 2012 12:24 PM:

    The biggest hint of what they are doing is the fact they are only interested in "cleaning up" the voting rolls and redistricting in election years. And close enough to November that nothing can be done about it.

  • Gandalf on July 09, 2012 12:29 PM:

    Stormskies and Gulag, I truly believe that it's one of the great mysteries of the universe as to why the white working class votes against there own best interests. It's kind of like a chicken voting for colonel Sanders.

  • jim filyaw on July 09, 2012 12:33 PM:

    Being in my late 60's, I donít know that I will live to see it, but I would love to see the collapse of the Baptist/Republican/Klan coalition here in the south. It would be wonderful to see southern political leaders who are known for something other than hatred, xenophobia, and tribalism.

  • Barbara on July 09, 2012 12:37 PM:

    There are studies that show that voting allegiances formed in early adulthood remain basically stable absent cataclymic change (e.g., great Depression, WWII). This is one reason (just one, but an important one) for the Republican voting preferences of many white working class voters: they really became consistent voters between 1978 and 1986, when Ronald Reagan was president. If you were between 18 and 30 within this time period (born between 1948 and 1968 -- basically, baby boomers) you are more likely to vote Republican, assuming other factors are equal (race is not "equal" hence, other factors are at work).

    Once I realized how strong this coming of age force was, I realized how long it would take to crack the Republican machine -- but this is why Republicans are truly cutting off their nose to spite their face with their tactics towards later generations who are socially more tolerant and darker. These voters are forming allegiances now that could influence their voting behavior for decades.

  • stormskies on July 09, 2012 12:41 PM:

    And even now Obama has just come out and announced he wants to keep the tax breaks for all those making $250,000 or less, and stop the tax breaks for all those over. This directly benefits the 99%. Yet those same stupid white Americans will still vote for buffoon Romney more than Obama. Just fucking insane.

  • John on July 09, 2012 12:44 PM:

    Wait, so a 3% increase or decrease is a big deal, but a 2% increase is "very slight"? Really?

  • Mimikatz on July 09, 2012 1:09 PM:

    I think the point was that 2% is less significant than 3%, hardly a controversial point. And in many states discussed there was a 3-4% increase in minorities and a 2-3% drop in white owrki g class share of the electorate, for an approximately 6% swing.

    It is obviously concerning much of the GOP who didn't heed one of the few true things Bush and Rove said--alienating minorities imperils the GOP. So they are using disenfranchisement rather than changing their policies, but the effect is to try to prolong their time in power.

  • Equal Opportunity Cynic on July 09, 2012 1:47 PM:

    I think the point was that 2% is less significant than 3%, hardly a controversial point.

    If by "controversial" you mean unsubstantiated without an understanding of what sample the data's based on, then yes, it's entirely controversial. (And for that matter, significance has a totally different meaning in statistics than in common parlance, so we should clarify which meaning we're using.)

    Although it's from the "Census/BLS Current Population Surveys for November of 2008 and May of 2012" that's not an actual census, right?

  • Barbara on July 09, 2012 1:59 PM:

    stormskies, here is an analogy for you. There are many people who attend churches whose belief in actual doctrinal statements is perfunctory or equivocal at best. Yet, people will keep identifying themselves as, say, "Catholic" and keep showing up and contributing until something big enough to challenge their perception of their own identity -- for instance, the sex abuse scandals -- such that there is clearly now a greater cost to inertia than there is to change.

    And that's without factoring race and racial politics and the politics of relative tribal advantage into the equation.