Former President Bill Clinton reportedly once called Ron Brownstein of The National Journal the “best political reporter” in America. He may well be.
Yesterday, he published a long and thorough analysis of the latest US Census data and what it portends for the 2012 presidential election (and American politics generally).
It is worth reading in full.
Brownstein’s lead is this: “Last week’s release of national totals from the 2010 census showed that the minority share of the population increased over the past decade in every state, reaching levels higher than demographers anticipated almost everywhere, and in the nation as a whole. If President Obama and Democrats can convert that growth into new voters in 2012, they can get a critical boost in many of the most hotly contested states and also seriously compete for some highly diverse states such as Arizona and Georgia that until now have been reliably red.”
The more granular data show a profound shift in the national demographic complexion:
# “The change over the past decade was especially dramatic among young people. In the new census, 46.5 per cent of people under 18 were minority, a dramatic jump from 39.1 per cent in 2000. As recently as last summer, demographers projected that minorities would make up a majority of the under-18 population sometime after 2020. At the current rate of growth, however, nonwhites will comprise a majority of children in the United States by 2015. And because of the explosive minority growth in the youth population—the people who will form families and become parents in the coming years—the nonwhite share of the overall population is likely to grow even faster over the next decade, says Brookings Institution demographer William Frey.”
# “Not only the depth but also the breadth of the minority expansion turned heads. From 2000 through 2010, the minority share of the population increased in every state. Four states are now majority minority: Hawaii, New Mexico, California, and Texas. In eight other states, minorities make up from 40 to 50 per cent of the population. In 2000, minorities were 40 per cent or more of the population in just four states.”
# “Hispanics are the driving engine of this growth. On the national level, Latinos now represent one in six Americans, or nearly 50.5 million in all. That’s up from one in eight, about 35.3 million, in 2000. The Hispanic share of the population increased over the past decade in every state, with dramatic gains recorded not only in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas but also in Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, New Jersey, Ohio, and Rhode Island. Latinos accounted for a majority of the population growth in 18 states, at least 40 per cent of the growth in seven more, and at least 30 per cent in five others. In sum, Hispanics fuelled about a third or more of the population growth in 30 states.”
# “Even though minorities haven’t maximized their potential impact in the electorate, the sheer weight of the underlying population change has been irresistible. Since 1992, exit polls have found that the percentage of nonwhite voters in presidential elections has more than doubled, from 12 per cent when Bill Clinton first won the White House to 26 per cent in 2008. Obama got four-fifths of that nonwhite vote, which helps explain how he won the largest share of the popular vote of any Democratic presidential nominee since Lyndon Johnson while winning only 43 per cent of whites’ votes.”
# “If the minority share of the vote increases in 2012 by the same rate it has grown in presidential elections since 1992, it will rise to about 28 per cent nationally. By itself, that could substantially alter the political playing field from 2010, when the minority vote share sagged to just 22 per cent. It means that if Obama can maintain, or even come close to, the four-fifths share of minority votes that he won in 2008, he could win a majority of the national popular vote with even less than the 43 per cent of whites he attracted last time.” (bold emphasis is ours)
We’ll have more on this later today.
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