Demographics and the Future of the GOP
When President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign swung into full gear in the spring, it began by releasing a video highlighting “voters like you.” Among the choices for this slice of Americana were a white man from North Carolina, an Anglo woman from Colorado, and a Latina from Nevada.
As with most things political and presidential, this was not a random sampling.
In order to spare himself the indignity of finding a new job come January 2013, Obama needs to reconnect with independent white males like those who reside along North Carolina’s I-85 corridor—a hotly contested political boundary that helped deliver the Tar Heel State to Obama by a mere 14,000 votes, or 0.3 percent, in the last presidential election.
Colorado likewise is a purple “swing” state that both political parties covet. The 2012 Democratic ticket will need a repeat of the 2008 gender gap—Obama receiving 56 percent of the women’s vote—to atone for the president’s soft numbers with the aforementioned white males.
As for that Nevada Latina: let’s simply call her the future arbiter of presidential elections. That “future” is up for grabs in the 2012 election.
The reason? America’s changing demographics.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 results, the nation’s share of the non-Hispanic white population declined from 69.1 percent in 2000 to a present 63.7 percent in 2010, with America’s minority population rising from 30.9 percent in 2000 to 36.3 percent in 2010. Twelve of the nation’s 50 states have a minority population exceeding 40 percent—triple the number of such states in 2000. Four states—California, Texas, New Mexico and Hawaii—now claim “majority-minority” status.
The reason for this population shift is Latino-Americans, who now are one-sixth (50.5 million) of the national population, compared to one-eighth (35.3 million) a decade ago.
This political and demographic phenomenon is not limited to America’s border states, with their pre-existing Latino populations. Latinos represented a majority of the population growth in 18 states. They accounted for at least 40 percent of the population growth in seven other states, and at least 30 percent of the population growth in another five states.
Twelve of the nation’s 50 states have a minority population exceeding 40 percent.
Yet, despite this rising tide there’s a huge disconnect between the population growth and the results at the polls. Simply put: Latinos don’t fully flex their political muscles.
In the last presidential election, the Hispanic vote constituted only 9 percent of the overall electorate. Yet Hispanics account for 14 percent of the nation’s adult population. In 2010, Latinos accounted for only 6.9 percent of the vote. In 39 states that year, less than 5 percent of the vote was Hispanic. Only in New Mexico, California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida did Hispanics make up more than 10 percent of the electorate.
What this means is that there is the potential for large future increases in the Latino electorate. This will likely take place slowly but surely as the Latino population changes demographically. It is a young and relatively uneducated population, and such a profile leads to poor turnout. However, electoral engagement should increase as Latinos age and become more educated.
For the Republican Party, this presents a challenge, beginning with how to interpret its declining fortunes among Hispanic voters in recent times….