Election post-game: Demographics

New York magazine put out a fascinating article a couple of days ago about how ridiculous it is for Democrats to follow Bernie’s advice and consider trying to sway racists. They’re completely right, of course, for justice reasons, but there’s also a numerical reason: White people are a shrinking percentage of the electorate, losing about 1-2% every four years or so, and white women, especially white college women, are way more Democratic than they were even two years ago. Perhaps most significantly, the youth vote is more strongly Democratic than it has been since exit polling became a thing. At 67% Democrat, that’s even bigger than Obama’s 2008 numbers. While the numbers of 18-29 year olds voting Democrat two years ago were in line with previous years, if you add in the number who voted third party, that’s still a significant jump. If that sticks, and if the youth vote isn’t again split by third parties in 2020, we may be looking at a sea change then.

I went back to my old favorite CNN exit polls again this year, and found some fascinating things. First, let’s look at Florida. Yeah, they’re still counting votes there, but the exit polls are instructive, too.


CNN’s Florida Senate exit polls: 2016 vs. 2018

Wow, what a massive change in just two years! Granted that there are likely some differences here due to specific things about the different candidates, but that’s still huge. White men upped their support for the Republican by five points, and Latinx men by just a tick, but everyone else increased Democrat support, up to a whopping 17 points among Black men. Even though the percentages of the electorate here were slightly more white, that was nearly eclipsed by the leftward shift of everyone else. While that may not have resulted in actual election wins (if we ever find out those results), it’s enough of a shift that we could see Florida go blue in two years.

Now, let’s see what’s going on in Nevada, which just kicked out their other Republican senator after doing it to the first one two years ago.


CNN’s Nevada Senate exit polls: 2016 vs. 2018

Again, white men and Latino men increased their support for the Republican, and here Black women shifted right, too (not entirely sure why), but everyone else shifted left. Perhaps most interestingly, the third party/none/no answer percentages dropped. People had a much stronger opinion about who they wanted to win this time.

Alas, most other state-level polls don’t have enough data to do a full breakdown, but let’s look at the national-level House polls, too.


CNN’s National House exit polls: 2016 vs. 2018

This shows an overall leftward shift for just about everyone. A slight tick down among Black women and Latino men stayed the same, but everyone else aimed Democrat.

Alas, full breakdown data isn’t available for all states, but skimming through the other results, and comparing them to polls from as far back as 2004, shows a pretty clear picture emerging: White women, particularly ones with a college degree, and people of color as a group have trended sharply left. White men have, on average, stayed about the same (depending on how you break them down by age and education.)

It’s of course no wonder, really. The GOP, faced with demographic change, could have tried to tailor their message to growing numbers of non-white voters, but instead they decided to stick with catering to white guys who think everyone else is a threat. While that message has historically captured white women, too, that’s changing, even among white women with less education: Democrats gained seven points with them this year. In addition to the ten points gained among college-grad white women, that is very significant. And if the youth vote was any larger a percentage of the electorate than they were, Democrats would have swept pretty much every race.

The writing is on the wall: People of color are an increasing percentage of the electorate, and they overwhelmingly vote Democrat, and as the GOP’s message gets increasingly racist, the few people of color who used to vote for them are drifting away. White women, who are a significant electorate percentage, are finally leaning that way now, too. Conservatives may be a majority of white men, but they’re not a majority of any other group, and even adding in conservative white women, that only adds up to 40% of the population. Moreover, as the percentage of people with a college degree increases, so will the percentage voting Democrat. Lastly, since Millennials and Gen Z both seem to be significantly more left-leaning than other generations were at their ages, that will probably stick even as they age. There’s always some conservative drift with aging, but when you start out that heavily left-leaning, even a steady decline over the next decade or so will still have them voting majority-Democrat.

Unless they start getting more than ~6% of the votes of people of color, white men magically start increasing their electorate percentage, or young people decide being a bigot is trendy, Republicans are going to keep losing, and by bigger and bigger numbers each year.  They know this, of course, which is why they’ve been doing everything they can to suppress votes by anyone other than themselves and scare people into leaving the country. But even that can only last so long. If it weren’t for the structural support they have thanks to the Senate and the EC, they wouldn’t be winning on a national level at all.


About Shawna (A Mediated Life)

Writer, singer, parent, fan, media maven, and general ne'er-do-well. Fierce protector of the rights of the disadvantaged and endless pontificator on subjects both ridiculous and sublime.
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