When Bill Clinton was elected president, 2 percent of the electorate was Hispanic. This year that number shot up to 10 percent. Put another way, Clinton -- who carried the Hispanic vote by 36 points in 1992 -- racked up a 700,000 vote margin from this group over his Republican opponent. In 2012, Barack Obama carried the Hispanic vote by 44 points and racked up a 5.3 million vote margin over his Republican opponent from this group. That means that over the last 20 years, Republicans have had to find an extra 4.6 million vote advantage among non-Hispanics just to keep up with growing Hispanic support for Democrats.
But the changing dynamics of American politics is not just about the rise of Hispanics. There are three other important groups that have not gotten the attention they deserve in this year's post-election analysis. They are unmarried voters, gays and Asian-Americans.
Four years ago, unmarried voters made up 34 percent of the national electorate. This year, they made up 40 percent -- a big jump over a short time. Obama carried this expanding group by 27 percent. Romney, on the flip side, won married voters--a still large, but diminishing, group -- by 14 percent.
Self-identified gay voters made up 5 percent of the electorate this year -- representing 6 million votes--and Obama received 76 percent of their support. Obama's margin over Romney among gay voters was 3.2 million votes. Considering that Obama won the national popular vote by less than 3.2 million, it can be said that the votes he won from gays and lesbians put him over the top. Clearly, the president's pre-election shift in favor of same-sex marriage was a shrewd strategic move.
Asian Americans are a rapidly growing component of the U.S. population. They have the highest level of educational attainment and median household income of any racial group in the nation. Four years ago, they represented 2 percent of the voting public. This year, it was 3 percent -- which translates to 3.6 million votes cast. Over time, Democratic support within this group has dramatically increased. In 1992, Democrat Bill Clinton lost Asian Americans to Republican George H. W. Bush by a hefty 24 points. This year, Democrat Obama beat Republican Romney by a whopping 47 points among Asian Americans, a margin representing 1.7 million votes.
News reports tell us that Republican Party officials are planning to do extensive post-election polling and focus groups to get a serious, objective reading on where they stand within this changing electorate. After reviewing the returns, one wonders: Why didn't they do it before the election?
Faucheux is president of Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan polling firm. He also teaches at George Washington University.