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Paint in Blue

October 15, 2008

Washington DC – Recent demographic trends in America seem to point to a realignment of the country along more liberal lines and, hence, should carry Democrats to a victory in the November general elections. Those constituencies who generally vote democratic are growing across the country, and particularly in the most highly contested states, while the pool of traditional republican voters is shrinking.


These, at least, are the findings of a recently released study, “The Political Geography of America’s Purple States,” that William Frey and Ruy Teixeira, of the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, and James Barnes, political correspondent for the National Journal, discussed at an event hosted by the National Press Club in Washington DC.

While democrats struggle with the general white working class, they have been performing increasingly better with those white workers that have a college degree. In 1988, the margin the Democrats had over the Republicans with white college graduates was only 1 point. In 2004 it increased to 17 points. Moreover, and to the benefit of the Democrats, white college graduates are becoming an increasing share of the electorate.

Similarly, citizens who belong to ethnic minorities – and particularly Hispanics – are rapidly growing in number. Democrats have always banked on the support of these voters and, during the last electoral cycles, things have improved even further. According to Messrs. Teixeira and Frey, in 2004 the Democratic Party had a 19 points margin on the Republican Party with Hispanic voters. In the latest polls, this figure has almost doubled, to 38 points. Even more importantly, ethnic minorities comprise an increasing share of eligible voters in all of the states considered undecided in this year’s election, such as Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Virginia.

Thirdly, metropolitan areas are expanding, pushing the line between urban neighborhoods and rural ones further into the outer suburbs. Cities are by definition democratic strongholds.

Ohio is a perfect case study for the above trends. The Columbus metro area is the fastest growing in the state and has large populations of college graduates and minorities. As a result, in the last 20 years Columbus metro witnessed a 22-point shift in the direction of the Democrats.

Finally, while constituencies favorable to the Democrats are booming, those leaning Republicans are decreasing. Rural areas are among those where voters have shifted further to the right. However, they are also the ones where population is shrinking faster.

“If these trends fully materialize on November 4, if Democrats are able to elect young new Congressmen alongside the President, and if they’ll solidify these gains in the mid-term election of 2010, then this could be a historical election,” Ruy Teixeira commented; an election like that of 1980, which repositioned America to the right behind President Ronald Reagan.

In the meantime, to understand the factors that will decide the 2008 general election, National Journal’s James Barnes thinks it is important to keep an eye on Osceola County in Central Florida. Home of the I-4 Corridor between Tampa Bay and Orlando, Osceola has experienced a 48% population growth in the last eight years. Ethnic minorities have spurred the boom. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore carried the county, while it was George W. Bush to prevail in 2004. It seems like Osceola County might hold the secret to this year’s election.

Originally reported and written for Washington Prism

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