U.S. Voter Demographics 2020: The Trend in 50 States

By Lee Cleveland, Polls and Trends - November 2, 2020

Demographic shifts across the United States have changed the composition of the American electorate.

From 2000 to 2018, the share of (non-Hispanic) White eligible voters dropped in all 50 states while Hispanics’ voting share in the electorate rose, according to Pew Research.

In fact, during that time 10 states saw a 10-percentage point or greater decline in the share of White eligible voters.

In Texas, for example, Whites comprised 62 percent of the state’s voting electorate in 2000 but only 51 percent in 2018. Conversely, Hispanics jumped from 22 to 30 percent while Asians doubled (4%) in the same period.

The White voting electorate dropped even more in California (-18%), Nevada (-15%), Florida (-13%) and Arizona (-12%) from 2000 to 2018. West Virginia and South Carolina, at -2 percent, registered the lowest drops in eligible White voters.

(To see stats for eligible voters by race/ethnicity from 2000 to 2018 for all 50 states, access the interactive map provided by Pew Research)

That stated, eligible White voters still represent, by far, the largest racial demographic in all 50 states minus Hawaii. And because they are more likely to go to the polls than Hispanics, Blacks or Asians, they tend to outkick their coverage in elections.

Still, we are already seeing how changing racial and ethnic composition are shifting the political winds in key states.

Why?

Pew Research Center survey data  shows that Blacks, Hispanics and Asian Americans are more likely to vote Democratic while Whites are narrowly aligned with the Republican Party.

For stats for each state, see this interactive graph on Pew Research

How might this impact the 2020 Elections and future races?

Arizona, for example, was once a conservative stronghold. The state entered the Union in 1912 and has gone Republican in all but one presidential election since 1952 (President Bill Clinton defeated Sen. Bob Dole there in 1996).  Moreover, Republicans running for Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate seats there have usually had an edge over their Democratic counterparts. Hence, the GOP hasn’t always succeeded in getting Republican governors and senators elected there but, until lately, being a Republican certainly helped one’s chances of winning.

But, in 2018 Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated Trump-backed Republican incumbent Martha McSally by 2.4 percentage points in that state’s high-profile U.S. Senate race. And today, according to all elite-level pollsters, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Mark Kelly is soundly ahead of GOP incumbent McSally, who was appointed (not elected) to her seat by the state’s Republican governor following the resignation of Sen. Jon Kyl.

And while Mitt Romney soundly defeated Barack Obama by a whopping 9.1 percentage points in in Arizona in 2012, President Donald Trump won the state by just 3.5 percentage points in 2016 and is trailing Vice President Biden, the Democratic nominee, among Arizonans in most polls today. In fact, it would be accurate to say Biden is the favorite in Arizona.

So, why haven’t Democrats been more successful in Florida?

Unlike Blacks, whose support for Democrats is close to 90 percent the last four decades, there’s still a lot of diversity among Hispanics and Asians. For example, according to Pew Research, Hispanic eligible voters of Puerto Rican and/or Mexican descent are more likely to identify as Democrats while most Cuban eligible voters lean Republican.

And among Asian American registered voters, Vietnamese Americans are more likely than Asians overall to identify as Republican, while Indian Americans tend to be Democratic.

… Back to Florida.

Whites, in 2018, consisted of just 61 percent of eligible voters while Hispanics comprised 20 percent of the voting electorate in Florida. However, Republican-leaning Cuban Americans represent a huge chunk of Florida’s Hispanic voting population, along with Democratic-leaning Puerto Rican Americans who have been surging in numbers the last 10 years.

Make no mistake, Florida’s Cuban American population is keeping the GOP highly relevant there. Without them, the state would slightly, but consistently, lean blue.

But given the recent rise of Puerto Rican Americans in Florida and a subtle uptick in Black and Asian Americans since 2000, Republicans should be concerned about their political future there.

Even today, it’s more purple than red. And yes, according to most top pollsters, Biden is carrying the Sunshine State too.

American Demographics Concerns and the Rise of Trump

Many Trump supporters are vocal in their concern about America’s shifting demographics, insisting the United States of America is not really their America anymore.

Today, the browning of America has generated a lot of backlash among some of the country’s citizens. A lot of whites, specifically Trump supporters, fear reverse racism, reduced political and social influence, increased crime, and not being able to compete with (lower minority) work wages in blue collar sectors.

So obviously, most Trump supporters, prior to the 2016 Presidential Election, viewed immigration as a “very big problem” in the U.S. In a Pew survey released three months prior the Election Day 2016, 66% of registered voters who supported Trump in the general election insisted immigration was a “very big problem.” In contrast, 17% of Hillary Clinton backers agreed.

Politics and Elections, and Republicans

Non-White voters already play a significant role in driving the nation’s electorate. And even if immigration continues to be curbed, the Hispanics’ share of the population will continue to rise based on sheer age demographics.

Fact: As of 2016, Nearly half of U.S.-born Latinos were younger than 18

Hispanics are, by far, the youngest major racial or ethnic group in the United States. In fact, Pew found that nearly six-in-ten Hispanics are Millennials or younger. And even Blacks, as a race, are much younger than Whites who, as the above graph illustrates, are the oldest racial or ethnic group.

Moreover, we can safely say Cuban Americans, who lean conservative, represent just a sliver of Latino Americans in the U.S.

This is bad news for Republicans whose ‘bread and butter’ supporters tend to be whites and, of far lesser consequence, Cuban Americans. By 2028 or sooner, they’ll have a difficult time competing in presidential races and statewide contests if they don’t start appealing to more minorities.

Prediction: Look for the GOP to break into two parties, a moderate wing and a (Alt Right) staunchly conservative wing.

The moderates will look to court minorities and folks who believe Democrats have shifted too far to the left while right wingers will appeal to conservative Whites and Hispanics.

Given the three-way split, white conservatives would still be able to run a major candidate if moderates, independents, and Hispanics are split between the Democratic Party and Republicans with moderate views, such as the late Sen. John McCain and Sens. Mitt Romney and Susan Collins.

Tags: U.S. Presidential Race 2020

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