Election 2012: The Demographic Time Bomb Explodes

Underlying President Obama's swamping the electoral college on election night were the demographic changes throughout the U.S. For the first time, Latinos voted in double-digits (10%). Republicans appear to have taken notice, but is it too late?

Four NBC reporters discuss the nation's demographic change that was an essential component to President Obama's re-election, accumulating 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206 (51% to 48% of popular vote), with Florida's vote determined on Nov. 10. The nation's voters have become increasing racially diverse and less white, and will only continue to do so. For the first time, the Census Bureau reports that 2011 saw 50.4% of all births be of color.

"What happened (Tuesday, Nov. 6) night was a demographic time bomb that had been ticking and that blew up in GOP faces. As the Obama campaign had assumed more than a year ago,

  • the white portion of the electorate dropped to 72%, and the president won just 39% of that vote.
  • he carried a whopping 93% of black voters (representing 13% of the electorate),
  • 71% of Latinos (representing 10%)
  • 73% of Asians (3%)

Obama's demographic edge creates this dilemma for the Republican Party: It can no longer rely on white voters to win national elections anymore."

Obama's demographic edge went beyond the nation' growing racial and ethnic minorities but extended to inevitable generational changes.

"(D)espite all the predictions that youth turnout would be down, voters 18-29 made up 19% of last night's voting population -- up from 18% four years ago -- and President Obama took 60% from that group. "

On the PBS NewsHour on Nov. 08, Jeffrey Brown moderated a panel composed of three Republican strategists to answer the question, "Will the Republican Party Learn to Adapt and Appeal to a Changing Electorate?"

JEFFREY BROWN: "Simple question: What is the number-one lesson Republicans should take from Tuesday's election?"

LESLIE SANCHEZ: "Most importantly, the GOP has failed to adjust to the American demographic realignment, (and particularly Hispanic voters)."

Repeating that theme, Washington Post columnist George Will opines on Nov. 07 that "the Republican Party...is endangered by tardiness in recognizing demography is destiny."

"It is surprising that only about 70 percent of Hispanics opposed Romney", quips Will in referencing Romney's assertion to encourage "illegal immigrants into 'self-deportation'."

It should be noted that George Will predicted a win for Romney - with 321 electoral votes to 217 for Obama.

According to the Washington Post, the decline in "the white share of the electorate continued, dropping to 72 percent, down from 74 percent in 2008 and 77 percent in 2004, according to exit polls."

Thanks to Mark Boshnack

Full Story: First Thoughts: Obama's demographic edge



Demographics time bomb

Lenore Lowen

Not totally surprised to hear this at all. Since 2000, country has been becoming increasingly diverse. The RNC made the mistake of dismissing the concerns of people of color, women, the LGBT community, and so forth. The question for us as future and present preservationists and planners is how do we address this issue in terms of housing and communities?

Irvin Dawid's picture

California's changing demographic electorate

If Romney and the national Republican party should recognize that they missed the demographic boat on Nov. 06, they might look at what's in store for them by seeing the dimensions of demographic diversity in California - at the polling place:

In "GOP might never again hold power in California", the Los Angeles Times 'Capitol Journalist', George Skelton lays out the political landscape in stark terms for the Grand Old Party.

"Here's the numerical problem: Latinos' portion of the California electorate increased to 22% last week, up from 18% in 2008, according to an Associated Press exit poll. The percentage of voters under 30 rose to 27%, up from 20%." I suppose for those states that remain overwhelmingly white, it may not be a problem. But the growing young electorate - with more liberal social values, could pose a problem, perhaps.
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

Growing Young Electorate?

"The percentage of voters under 30 rose to 27%, up from 20%."

In general, I agree that demographics are against the GOP. But I don't expect the percentage of voters under 30 to rise. The population in general is aging as population growth slows, which means that the percentage of young voters will decrease.

Charles Siegel

Irvin Dawid's picture

Distinguishing California demographics from U.S.

Note that George Skelton refers only to California voter turn-out. I believe CA, due to large Latino and Asian immigrant population, is younger than U.S. as a whole. In fact, CA growth is driven by children of immigrants born here in CA - immigration has slowed and emigration to other states exceeds migration from the other 49 states. For the Bay Area, Population Problem: More Out Than In, though that includes in-state emigration to Centra Valley.

Other Planetizen references: The Bright Side of California's Growth Slowdown and Population Growth Slows Dramatically in California, Including Fewer Births, 27 April 2012:
"Growth is now entirely dependent on new births as net migration (foreign and domestic) resulted in a loss of 22,000 residents."

Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

California and Global Demographics

Irv, I think it is a temporary anomaly caused by recent levels of immigration.

Note that the global population is beginning to stabilize and therefore to age. Global population increased by more than 100% from 1950 to 2000, but it will increase only about 30% from 2000 to 2050, and then only about 10% from 2050 to 2100.

The change has been most dramatic in Mexico, where the fertility rate has gone down from almost 7 in the 1960s to about 2.1 today. China's population is expected to age dramatically in the coming decades because of its one-child policy. Similar changes are happening in most of the world.

In California, "Growth is now entirely dependent on new births as net migration (foreign and domestic) resulted in a loss of 22,000 residents."

We can expect the population based on births to continue to age.

Migration complicates things. It is possible for older people to migrate out of California as younger people migrate in, keeping the population young. That must be what happened to increase the youth vote in the last election, but I doubt if it could be enough to outweigh national and global demographics in the long run.

Charles Siegel

Irvin Dawid's picture

"The GOP’s demographic problem — in 1 chart"

In Washington Post's 'The Fix' blog, Chris Cillizza lays out the problem in two charts showing white and non-white voter registration in the Democratic and Republican parties from 1968 to the present. What's needed are charts showing the gender and age compositions for the two parties as well.
Irvin Dawid, Palo Alto, CA

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