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THE MUSINGS OF A TRADITIONAL SOUTHERN DEMOCRAT

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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

In 1992, non-Hispanic whites made up 84 percent of registered voters. Today, they represent 70 percent of registered voters. The percentage of Hispanics has nearly doubled to 9 percent. Mixed race or others have risen from 1 percent to 5 percent, and blacks have ticked up from 10 percent to 12 percent.

Dan Balz of The Washington Post writes:

The United States is becoming more diverse racially and ethnically, better educated overall and with a population that is aging. Pew’s analysis found the following: “The Democratic Party is becoming less white, less religious and better-educated at a faster rate than the country as a whole, while aging at a slower rate. Within the GOP, the pattern is the reverse.”

By putting together the demographic shifts with changes in party allegiance, the Pew study underscored two big changes — one talked about for some years, the other an ongoing issue for Republicans that Trump’s candidacy has highlighted. Both bode poorly for the Republicans if they cannot adjust their appeal rapidly.

In 1992, non-Hispanic whites made up 84 percent of registered voters. Today, they represent 70 percent of registered voters. The percentage of Hispanics has nearly doubled to 9 percent. Mixed race or others have risen from 1 percent to 5 percent, and blacks have ticked up from 10 percent to 12 percent.

Both parties have become less white in their makeup, but the changes have moved at significantly different rates. In 1992, whites accounted for 76 percent of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. Today, whites make up 57 percent. Meanwhile, whites made up 93 percent of Republicans a quarter-century ago. Today, they’re still 86 percent. In other words, there’s been a 19-point shift inside the Democratic Party and only a seven-point shift in the GOP coalition.

As the baby-boom generation retires, the overall age of the population increases. Over the past quarter-century, the median age of registered voters, according to the Pew report, has risen from 46 to 50. What’s happened to the parties? In 1992, the Republican Party had a slightly younger cohort than the Democrats. Today, the GOP is significantly older in its makeup than the Democrats — and older by two years than the median age.

The other big shift is the education levels of the two party’s followers. When Bill Clinton was elected president, Republican voters were in general much better educated than Democratic voters. Today’s Democratic Party followers have somewhat higher education levels than Republicans.

Trump’s candidacy has drawn its strongest support from white voters who lack college degrees. He has taken advantage of what has been a major movement of these blue-collar voters from their historic home in the Democratic Party. Trump did not trigger the shift toward the Republicans; it began some time ago, though it has accelerated over the past few years.

In 1992, whites without college degrees accounted for 63 percent of all registered voters. Today, because of more diversity and higher levels of education, white, non-college-educated voters account for 45 percent in 2016 Pew surveys. Meanwhile, whites with college degrees have increased from a fifth of the electorate to a quarter today.

Writing in The Hill recently, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman observed: “While Republicans are, and have been, making gains with non-college whites, they are suffering continuing — albeit smaller — defections from whites who hold a college degree. In the long run, that’s bad news for the GOP.”

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