Since President Obama’s re-election in 2012, Republicans have worried about what an increasingly diverse electorate will mean for their future as a national party. Democrats, meanwhile, have started talking about turning ruby red states like Arizona and Texas blue.
How worried should Republicans be? And how realistic are those Democratic aspirations? A new study released on Thursday — based on data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey — points toward some answers: Republicans should be worried, but Democrats in Austin and Phoenix shouldn’t stock up on confetti just yet.
The study, from the left-leaning Center for American Progress, projects the growth in eligible voters in 12 states by 2014 and 2016. The projections — which broke down the eligible voter growth by race — show that fast-paced minority growth coupled with slow or negative growth among non-Hispanic whites has a substantial impact on the eligible voter makeup of the 12 states that the center examined.
According to the center’s projections, 600,000 Hispanics will be newly eligible to vote in Florida in 2016. Over the same period, fewer than 125,000 new white voters will be eligible in Florida. In Arizona, more than 175,000 Hispanics will enter the voter pool as roughly 10,000 white voters leave it. In Texas, 185,000 new white eligible voters will be overwhelmed by the roughly 900,000 Hispanics expected to enter the electorate.
So what would the 2012 presidential election have looked like with the more diverse electorate projected by the Center for American Progress? The impact is not as big as might be implied by the change in the eligible voter makeup.
The number of new, nonwhite eligible voters may be staggering, but not all those eligible voters actually go to the polls. There are not yet solid turnout rate estimates for these demographic groups for 2012 (that will come in the spring, when the Census Bureau publishes it biannual supplement on voting). But according to a Pew analysis of the Census Bureau’s report on the 2008 election, the turnout rate that year was 66 percent for non-Hispanic whites, 50 percent for Hispanics, 65 percent for blacks and 47 percent for Asian-Americans.
As a result, the fast-growing Hispanic and Asian-Americans communities continue to “punch below their weight.” For example, if a Democrat wins 70 percent of the Hispanic vote (roughly what Mr. Obama earned nationally in 2012) but just half of eligible Hispanics go to the polls, then a Democrat gains a net of only two votes over their Republican opponent for every 10 new eligible Hispanic voters.
So while demography is in the Democrats’ favor, the key to making real change happen sooner rather than later is to increase registration and participation rates. Which, coincidentally, happens to be the goal of Battleground Texas. Here’s BT head honcho Jeremy Bird talking about what they plan to do:
I previously suggested some metrics for Battleground Texas to see how they’re doing in preparation for 2016. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing their results. I’d also suggest that Dems aim to do at least a little better among white voters. It’s clear from the 2012 results that Obama slipped among them compared to 2008, and the kind of margins among white voters suggested by that Wilson Perkins poll from last year make the hill that much more steep. One possible explanation for Hillary Clinton’s favorable early poll numbers in Texas is that she does a lot better among white voters than Obama did. Outside of younger voters and single women, that’s not a focus for Battleground Texas, but it’s a factor to keep in mind anyway. Which is another way of saying that it’s really, really early to be thinking about this, and everything we’re talking about now could sound pretty foolish in three years’ time. Good thing no one ever remembers what anyone says on the Internet, right?