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.

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