Demographics working against Republicans

2012-11-08 12:01

Washington - Tuesday's decisive win by Barack Obama in the US presidential election highlighted how population shifts - ethnic and generational - have buoyed Democrats while forcing Republicans to rethink their message.

Without recasting their core message and actively trying to expand their base beyond older mostly white Americans, conservatives could struggle even more in future elections as the nation's population incorporates more Latinos, Asians and other minorities as well as young voters, analysts said.

First-time voters, including many young people and immigrants, favored the president by large margins, while older voters leaned to Republican Mitt Romney, Reuters/Ipsos Election Day polling showed.

Obama won an estimated 66% of the Hispanic vote, according to Reuters/Ipsos election day polling, at a time when the Latino population is growing rapidly in states such as Florida, one of eight or so politically divided states that were crucial in the presidential race. Other estimates put Obama's share of the Hispanic vote above 70%.

"The nonwhite vote has been growing - tick, tick, tick - slowly, steadily. Every four-year cycle the electorate gets a little bit more diverse. And it's going to continue," said Paul Taylor of the nonpartisan Pew Research Centre.

"This is a very powerful demographic that's changing our politics and our destiny," Taylor said, adding that the number of white voters is expected to continue to decline a few points in each future election cycle.

Young minorities for Obama

Data has shown for years that the United States is poised to become a "majority minority" nation - with whites a minority of the country - over the next several decades. But Tuesday's results highlighted the political impact.

About 80% of blacks, Latinos and other nonwhite voters cast their ballots for Obama on Tuesday compared with less than 17% for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. Obama also won about 63% of total voters age 18 to 34.

Overall, Romney won nearly 57% of the white vote compared with 41% for Obama, the polling data showed. The vast majority of votes cast for Romney came from white voters.

Demographer William Frey said that division is troubling.

The United States has long history of racial divide stemming from its roots in slavery and including the civil rights battles of the 1960s.

"We still are a country that's kind of divided, and a lot of that fissure in the population tends to be based in race and age and ethnicity," said Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.

Cultural generation gap

"There's kind of a dangerous result in this election when we see older whites moving in one direction and younger minorities moving in another direction."

Frey said he sees the gap less as racism and more as a cultural generation gap.

"It's a little bit of a warning sign that we need to pay attention to," he said.

US data released earlier this year showed the number of ethnic minority births topping 50% of the nation's total births for the first time..

It will be years before those newest Americans will be old enough to vote, but the demographic shift is clear. Most analysts project whites to be the racial US minority sometime between 2040 and 2050.

Latinos, the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, are a huge factor.

Multiracial children

More than 70% voted for Obama compared with about 28% for Romney, according to Reuters/Ipsos data.

"We are a much more diverse country than we were" just a generation or two ago, said Pew's Taylor, who also oversees the center's Social and Demographic Trends project and the Pew Hispanic Centre. The rising number of multiracial children are also likely to become more of a factor, he added.

Obama, whose historic win in 2008 made him the first ethnic minority US president, had a black father and a white mother.

Aging baby boomers also are a key factor in the demographic transition, as older voters "leave the electorate", as Taylor delicately put it, and young voters more accepting of diversity and an active government are added to the rolls.

That could help drive certain civil rights ballot initiatives, like votes in Maryland and Maine on Tuesday to approve same-sex marriage. In each instance, support from younger voters helped put the measures over the top.

Recipe for extinction

"It was an election in which the future won over the past," said Marshall Ganz, a Harvard University lecturer on public policy, said of Tuesday's various contests.

Tuesday's outcome poses big questions for Republicans as they seek new national leaders and prepare for the next congressional election in 2014 and beyond.

Conservatives' stance against immigration reform and gay marriage is "a recipe for extinction", said analyst Mike Murphy, a one-time adviser to prominent Republicans including Arizona Senator John McCain, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor.

"The question is whether or not we're going to have an adult conversation inside the party about our need to attract more people than grumpy old white guys," Murphy told MSNBC. "Demographically, our time is running out."

Ted Cruz, a Latino Republican elected to the US Senate from Texas, said on CBS that his party had to recruit candidates who connect with that community in a "real and genuine way".

Not all Republicans were willing to concede to demographics. Some highlighted tactical and strategic issues in their lost bid for the White House and their failed efforts to take control of the US Senate.

'Whites are not dead'

And analysts said Democrats, too, have lessons to learn.

"It is a very powerful wake-up call to both political parties," said Pew's Taylor.

Brookings' Frey said Democrats still must keep the white vote in mind for at least the next couple of election cycles.

"Whites are not dead," he said. "They're still a big part of this population."

  • Jeremy - 2012-11-08 12:55

    So South Africa's not the only country where people tend to vote along racial lines..... Ironically, I think we may even be a little ahead of the US in that we're starting to vote less according to race - and more according to social circumstances. Let's see how the DA does in 2014! On another note, I wonder who the US Democrats will find to replace Obama once he's completed his second term? Whoever it is will probably be white.....and will almost certainly lose against a white Republican, simply because in the US voters are wary of allowing one party to remain in power for more than 8 years......

      moses.mabhida.52 - 2012-11-08 13:35

      50% voted for Obama while 49% voted for Romney. 70% of the people who voted for Obama were white - demographics might change - but I believe Obama was voted in on merit and not colour. I too hope we can get to a stage that black South African are comfortable enough to vote in White candidates, in the same way as white Americans are voting for Black ones. One way for the republicans to win an election is to bring in a Hispanic leader with strong Christian values (most are religious) that could lead them - If they take this route they (I believe) will win the next elections (2016). Remember, the difference between Democrats & Republicans is a mere 2,5 million votes out of 130 million - that’s not much and conservative America is not dead.

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2012-11-08 13:46

      The big story under repoted is the non-binding referendum, where Puerto Rico voted in favor of changing its territorial status and requesting to become the 51st state of the United States.

      Jack - 2012-11-08 14:07

      @Moses - CNN put the stats at 60% of whites voted for Romney, 40% for Obama. Dunno where you get your stats from.

      Jack - 2012-11-08 14:08

      They also said 93% of blacks voted for obama

      moses.mabhida.52 - 2012-11-08 14:24

      Jack As far as I can see your stats is correct to White males only... I am talking about the whole white population. More white women voted for Obama then for Mitt.

      kgomotso.mukwevho - 2012-11-08 17:56

      Jeremy there will never be a time were decision is not influenced by race. even DA understands that fact. Look at DA placard it Helen for Whites, Patricia for Coloureds and Mazibuko for blacks.

  • fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 13:34

    Young Americans do not believe in their God anymore!

      kenpeg.dawson - 2012-11-08 13:43

      Where do you come from? what a cr*p statement.

      fidel.mgoqi - 2012-11-08 13:57

      Waar wil jy uit? What a crap response!

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