Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Demographic Realities: Part II

I now continue my series on demographic realities and U.S. politics. In the last post, I showed most states are trending Democratic due to the growth in minority voters. I will now examine the effects of these shifts on national politics.

The maps show the 2012 election results in comparison with the predicted election results in 2024. The data suggest, if Republicans continue to lose 75 to 80% of minority voters, the red states of North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Texas will become Democratic leaning purple states. Republican support in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina will also weaken considerably, although I expect these states to continue supporting Republican presidential candidates.

Perhaps most important, a slew of current Democratic leaning states will no longer be competitive. Florida, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington will become solidly Democratic states by 2024--in a similar fashion as happened in California about a decade ago. This movement is significant because Democrats only need to defend states Obama won in 2012 in order to win a majority of the Electoral College. With these five states no longer competitive, the opportunities for Republicans to chip away at the Obama electoral map will diminish substantially.

Meanwhile, as the West and South become more Democratic leaning, the dynamics in the Midwest and Northeast will remain essentially unchanged. The blue states will remain blue (or become more blue) and the red states will remain red. The only exception to this pattern will be Maine--a small and electorally unimportant state--that will shift from being solidly Democratic to being purple. Iowa and New Hampshire will become more competitive, but will remain Democratic leaning as well.

Clearly, with the shift of the West and the Southeast in favor of the Democrats, the Electoral College will overwhelmingly favor Democratic presidential candidates. As one can see from the chart, Democrats already enjoy a modest advantage in the Electoral College with about 50 more votes solidly Democratic than solidly Republican. However, by 2024, this advantage is predicted to become almost insurmountable. About 40% of electoral votes will be solidly Democratic, meaning Democrats will only need to win a few of the most Democratically leaning purple states in order to carry the election. In contrast, deeply red states will only comprise about 15% of electoral votes. Thus, Republicans will need to virtually run the table in the battleground states to elect a President. In the most likely scenario, Democrats will carry between 375-450 electoral votes--a landslide by any standard.

The Senate, on the other hand, is less likely to be impacted. Twenty states will remain Republican leaning, down modestly from twenty-four in 2012. About one-quarter of seats will still represent deeply red states. Thus, all indications are that Democrats will maintain their majority, while Republicans will control enough seats to slow legislation under the current filibuster rules. If, however, filibuster rules are changed, the shift of several large southern states into the Democratic column could change the balance-of-power more considerably. In order to win simple majority votes Democrats will only need to win of over liberal senators and moderate left-of-center senators, rather than the most conservative Democratic senators.

Finally, of the two chambers, the U.S. House of Representatives will be the most impacted by the demographic trends. At present, about two-thirds of seats represent states that voted for Obama in 2012. This distribution of seats would suggest the Democrats should control the House. Nevertheless, because of Gerrymandering and other geographic factors, the Republicans have been fairly successful at winning seats in Democratic leaning states. In fact, Republicans won 60% of the districts within the 13 competitive states that voted for Obama. By winning a large number rural and suburban districts in these Democratic states, Republicans have been able to stave off demographic realities and maintain control of the House.

However, an analysis of trends in several large Southwestern and Southeastern states, indicates the House will shift decisively into Democratic control by 2024. As the below chart shows, only 20% of seats will represent Republican leaning states in 2024. An additional 44 seats will represent districts within deeply blue states in comparison with the 2012 baseline. (This shift to heavily Democratic states is significant since only about 30% of such seats are represented by Republicans in the current Congress.)

Exactly how much the movement of several large states into the Democratic column will change the composition of the House is unclear. Much of the change depends on the extent to which each party controls redistricting in these key states. Even so, Republicans will likely lose a minimum of 20 seats over the next twelve years, enough to put Democrats in control of the House. If Democrats gain control of redistricting in some key states like Florida and Pennsylvania, the Republicans could face catastrophic loses in the 2022 and 2024 elections. As many as 60 seats could shift to Democrats over the next decade. The most likely scenario is a process that leads to a 30-40 seat movement in favor of Democrats. Such a change would give Democrats an unambiguous majority in both legislative chambers.

Given the anticipated demographic realities facing the two political parties, I expect the Democratic Party will regain unilateral control of the federal government by 2024. The executive and legislative branches will look much like they did from 2009-10, after Obama was first elected. If anything, the Democrats will have an even tighter grip on power because the 2009-10 majorities relied on a large number of conservative Democrats who were elected during the 2006 and 2008 wave elections. The 2024 majority in the House, in particular, will be much more durable because it will be built upon fundamental demographic changes, rather than short-term dissatisfaction with Republicans. The Republicans will still be relatively strong in about 20 states, giving them a formidable presence in state and local governments throughout some regions of the country. At the federal level, however, the Republican Party will become a minority party by 2024.

In Part III of the series, I propose a few ways in which the Republican Party might try to adjust to the growth in minority voters and avoid the above scenario.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Demographic Realities: Part I

A few days ago, the Census Bureau estimated the majority of 0-5 year olds are now minorities. This development implies the Republican Party, which loses minority voters by more than three-to-one, faces an ominous future. However, a more careful assessment on how the political landscape will be impacted is in order. In this three part series, I explore the impacts of the demographic realities facing the Republican Party over the next 10-15 years. In this analysis, I assume caucasian voters will continue to gradually trend Republican and minority voters will continue to vote 75-80% Democratic for the foreseeable future.

First, while a national estimate of minority children is interesting, state level estimates on the percentage of children who are minorities are far more informative. The first map shows the percent of the population under age 20 that is minority in each state. These data provide with a good sense of the partisan composition of new voters in each region.

Strikingly, although the majority of children are still caucasian nationally, several key states already have majority-minority populations among the underage. In California and Texas--the two largest states--over 60% of children are minorities, suggesting Democrats will be all but assured strong support among new voters in these states. Even in conservative Texas, Democrats will likely have 55-60% support among young voters. Moreover, in 13 states, the underage population is already majority-minority. These states include the electoral battlegrounds of Arizona, Florida, and Georgia.

Another concern for Republicans is that, even in most historically homogeneous northern states such as Oregon and Massachusetts, the percentage of children who are minorities has surpassed 20%. Since caucasian voters typically split about evenly in these states, the substantial minority populations assure Democratic majorities among new voters.

Another indication of a state's demographic trend is the extent to which the young are more diverse than their elderly counterparts. The more the young differ from the old, the more faster the state's demographics are expected to change. The second map shows the demographic momentum in each state, represented as the percent of children who are minorities minus the percent of senior citizens who are minorities.

Not surprisingly, the southwestern states and Florida are quickly becoming dominated by minorities. In these states, mostly caucasian elderly voters are being replaced by mostly minority voters. In other words, old Republican voters are being replaced by new Democratic voters, suggesting these states will trend Democratic in the near future. Most of the Southeast, Northwest and Northeast (except upper New England) are also trending toward minorities at a slower, but marked pace.

The Midwest is more mixed. A few states like Minnesota and Illinois have minority populations that are growing moderately quickly. On the other hand, quite a few states like Missouri, Ohio, and West Virginia have populations that are trending much more slowly toward minorities. Republicans can likely perform well in these states if they continue to gain support among caucasian voters.

Combining these two indicators above, I have predicted the partisan trend in each state over the next 10-15 years. This prediction is depicted in the map below. It show 34 states trending Democratic and nine states trending Republican.

Nine states are predicted to trend rapidly in favor of the Democrats. In these states, the Democratic vote share will increase at least 2% each presidential election cycle, holding other factors constant. These trends will have substantial electoral impacts because they account for about one-third the U.S. population. They include the electoral battlegrounds of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Florida, and Georgia. An additional 25 states will trend gradually to the Democrats. They account for nearly half of the U.S. population and include the swing states of Colorado, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Midwest is not expected to trend Republican. Rather, the Midwest will trend Democratic at a slower pace than the Southwest or Southeast. Although most Midwestern states have a smaller share of minorities, young minorities are just numerous enough to lead to a gradual shift to Democrats in Minnesota, Illinois, and (surprisingly) Pennsylvania. Most other Midwestern states, including Michigan and Ohio will remain basically unchanged.

Still more troubling for Republicans, only nine relatively small states are predicted to become more Republican. These states are limited to the upper Great Plains, Appalachia, and upper New England where young minorities have little presence. They account for less then 10 percent of the U.S population and only two battleground states (Iowa and New Hampshire). Additionally, the Republican trending states are likely to lose electoral clout after the next census due to slow population growth.

In part II, I examine the precise implications these partisan trends will have for the Electoral College and Congress.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Most States (Still) Oppose Same-Sex Marriage, But Public Opinion Near Tipping-point

With the recent failure of same-sex marriage legislation in Illinois, I thought I would examine the level of support for same-sex marriage in each individual state. Many have attempted to do this, but they have provided estimates that I consider implausible (with the exception of Nate Silver). Thus, I have developed my own model to estimate support for same-sex marriage in each state.

Although national support for same-sex marriage has crossed the 50% threshold, majorities in most states still do not support same-sex marriage. Support is concentrated in a dozen or so states in the Northeast and West Coast, where adults solidly support same-sex marriage. In 33 states--including Illinois--support is below 50%.

In almost all states outside of the South, however, public opinion on same-sex marriage is near a tipping-point. In most of the Midwest, support ranges between 45 and 50%. In every state outside of the South, support exceeds 40%. Given young adults overwhelmingly support same-sex marriage, majority opposition to same-sex marriage will be relegated to the Deep South within the next five to ten years.

These facts should serve as a source of both optimism and caution among gay rights advocates. Much progress has been made for marriage equality and, in the near future, most of the country will support same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, same-sex marriage is still a little short of majority support in the Midwest. In midwestern states like Illinois, public opinion is near a tipping-point and majority support will emerge within the next few years. Still, advocates should be careful not to push equality legislation prematurely since they are still shy of majority support in most states.

Methodology: I will just sketch my methodology. I collected polling data on support for same-sex marriage across age and religious identification groups. I then estimated support for same-sex within each age-religion cell. Next, I calibrated these estimates to match polling data within each region (Midwest, Northeast, South, and West). Taking these estimates of support within each region-age-religion category, I calculated support in each state based on the state's region, religious composition, and age profile.