Tuesday, June 21, 2016

General Election Politics 101: The Minority Vote

13 million people voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican Primary.  To be sure, that is a record for the most votes received by any candidate in the Republican Primary.  You will often hear Trump or his surrogates tout this number on the cable news shows.  And they should.  13 million people is pretty impressive...for a primary, that is.  But when it comes to the General Election, 13 million people is a drop in the bucket.  Roughly 130 million people (a factor of ten times greater than 13 million) vote in the General Election.  So it's going to take a lot more than 13 million people to get Trump into the White House.  But that's not the real issue for Trump.  After all, even your most generic run off the mill Republican or Democratic candidate will be able to count on close to half (approx. 65 million) of those 130 million voters, give or take a few.  Trump's problem, and what really drives the GOP up the wall, is his short-sighted off the cuff rhetoric which seems to be aimed at alienating minority voters. Especially Muslims and Latinos. The GOP hates this because they realize, even if Trump doesn't, that White people alone are not enough to win the General Election.

Consider this: Barack Obama lost the White vote in 2008 (43% to 55%) and he lost it again in 2012 by an even wider margin (39% to 59%).  That's right, America's first Black President was neither elected or re-elected by the majority of Whites in America. 

Let's talk sheer numbers.  129,446,841 people voted in 2008 (source), and 126,849,296 voted in 2012 (source).  In 2008, Whites comprised 74% of the electorate, which comes out to roughly 95 million voters.  In 2012, Whites comprised 72% of the electorate, which comes out to roughly 91 million voters.  In short, White voters, while still the vast majority of the electorate, are on the decline.

Meanwhile, in 2008 Blacks, Latinos and Asians comprised 13%, 9%, and 2%, respectively, which comes out to roughly 16.8 million Black voters, 11.6 million Latino voters, and 2.6 million Asian voters.  In 2012, Blacks, Latinos and Asians comprised 13%, 10%, and 3%, respectively, which comes out to 16.5 million Black voters, 12.7 million Latino voters, and 3.8 million Asian voters.  Although the number of Black voters effectively held constant, Latinos and Asians increased, bringing the total number of minority voters up from approximately 31 million people in 2008 to about 33 million in 2012. 

And how are minorities voting?

Of the 16.8 million Blacks who voted in 2008, 15.9 million (95%) voted Democratic and just under 700,000 (4%) voted Republican.  Of the 16.5 million Blacks who voted in 2012, 15.3 million (93%) voted Democratic and just under 1 million (6%) voted Republican.

Of the 11.6 million Latinos who voted in 2008, 7.7 million (67%) voted Democratic and 3.6 million (31%) voted Republican.  Of the 12.7 million Latinos who voted in 2012, 9 million (71%) voted Democratic and 3.4 million (27%) voted Republican.

Of the 2.6 million Asians who voted in 2008, 1.6 million (62%) voted Democratic and just under 1 million (35%) voted Republican.  Of the 3.8 million Asians who voted in 2012, 2.7 million (73%) voted Democratic and just under 1 million (26%) voted Republican.

So not only are Latinos and Asians growing in numbers, they're also trending more Democratic.  The Republican party knows this and has been trying to make inroads with minorities, especially Latino voters.  Then along comes Trump with this repeated attacks on Latinos, and calls for a nation-wide ban on Muslims.  Islam, by the way, is a fairly popular religion in Asia.  

If there is a strategy being utilized by Trump (and I'm not saying that there is one), it appears to be aimed at gaining enough of the 91 million White voters to negate all 33 million minorities. But those were 2012 numbers.  The Latino population has been steadily increasing over recent years, climbing up by 1.1 million people between 2013 and 2014 alone, which was almost half of the total 2.3 million new people added to the US population during that same time period.  Latinos now comprise 17% of the US population, which makes them the largest minority demographic in the country, surpassing Blacks who comprise 12%.  It is difficult to understand why anyone interested in becoming President of the United States would chose the Latino demographic, out of all of the demographics, to piss off.

In theory, Trump's "strategy" is possible.  There are, after all, about 90 million White voters out there.  When you add up all of the minority voters who voted Democratic in the 2012 election, that number comes up to about 27 million. If the minority vote holds steady at its 2012 levels, then Trump would need to drive the percentage of White voters who vote Republican up to about 63%.  It's possible, but not likely. That would mean no more than 37% of White voters could vote Democratic.

And all of this is not even taking into account the impact these demographics have on the swing states in the electoral college map and the path to 270 which already favors a generic Democratic candidate over a general Republican candidate.  The GOP is right to try to distance themselves from Trump now, but honestly that should have been happening many months ago before he got the nomination.  Anything can happen in a General Election, so we can't know with any certainty how voters will turn out this November.  But given these factors, it is difficult to see how Trump is helping himself or his party by alienating the minority vote.

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