Study: One-third of 2020 eligible voters will be nonwhite

Getty Images

Presidential candidates running for the White House in 2020 will face the most diverse electorate in American history when 1 in every 3 people eligible to vote will be nonwhite.

A new analysis from the Pew Research Center shows 66.7 percent of eligible U.S. voters will be white in 2020. For the first time, Hispanic voters will make up the largest minority within the electorate, surpassing black voters.

{mosads}As recently as the 2000 election, more than three-quarters of the electorate was white. In the nearly two decades since, the number of both Hispanic citizens and Asian-American citizens has nearly doubled, while the African-American population has grown by about 10 percent.

“This is largely driven by growth in Hispanics and Asians,” said Richard Fry, a senior researcher at Pew. “It’s driven partly by natural growth, by fertility. And among those who are eligible to vote, there are naturalized citizens. And Hispanics are an important part of our immigration stream.”

The country’s rapidly changing demographics are hastened by the arrival of Generation Z, those born after 1996, who are just beginning to age into the electorate. Generation Z is both the most ethnically diverse and best-educated age cohort in American history — only 55 percent of that generation is white, compared with 74 percent of the baby-boom generation. Members of Generation Z will make up about 1 in 10 voters eligible to cast a ballot by 2020.

The diversity of the youngest generation means the slow pace of demographic change is going to speed up as more members of Generation Z turn 18 and begin participating in the political process.

“We’re expecting demographic shifts to accelerate in the next ten years. They’re not going to flatten. They’re going to take off,” said Matt Barreto, a political scientist at UCLA and the founder of the Democratic polling firm Latino Decisions. 

By contrast, the baby-boom generation is beginning to lose political clout. Boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, will make up 28 percent of the electorate, still the largest generation by population, but only narrowly edging out millennials. 

Those born after 1964 — members of Generation X, millennials and Generation Z — will account for a whopping 62 percent of the electorate.

But they are likely to make up a smaller share of those who actually vote, because younger voters typically show up less reliably than older voters do.

The 24 million members of Generation Z who will be at least 18 before November 2020 “are the ones that are eligible to vote. Their clout will be not just whether they’re eligible to vote, they have to turn out,” Fry said.

The younger and more diverse electorate presents a challenge to President Trump as he gears up for his reelection bid in 2020. Trump’s approval rating is already dangerously low for an incumbent; among younger voters and nonwhites, it is even worse.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week showed Trump’s approval rating at just 37 percent among all adults polled. Among those between the ages of 18 and 39 who were surveyed, his approval rating is below 30 percent. Among nonwhite voters, it is just 18 percent.

{mossecondads}And Trump has tied himself so closely to the rest of the Republican Party that his dismal numbers threaten to swamp other candidates down the ballot.

Mario Lopez, who heads the conservative Hispanic Leadership Fund and who worked in George W. Bush’s administration, pointed to California, where a surge of Hispanic voters helped Democrats win seven Republican-held House seats and supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature in the 2018 midterm elections.

“That’s the future of the Republican Party if Republicans want to kind of lock themselves in a closet and pretend none of this is happening,” Lopez said. “The writing has been on the wall for a long time, for a couple decades now. Some of us have attempted to lead the charge on making sure that conservatives and Republicans are aware and doing what they could to reach out. That’s an urgent matter more than ever now.”

The changing face of the electorate is also likely to change the presidential battlegrounds. Traditional purple states in the Rust Belt and the Midwest, such as Iowa and Ohio, both of which are less diverse than the nation as a whole, appear to be trending toward Republicans. Traditionally Republican Sun Belt states like Georgia, Arizona and even Texas — all of which are more diverse than average — are moving toward swing status.

“It changes the map,” Barreto said. “Texas is a state people are talking about. Arizona for certain will be in play in 2020.”

Barreto said Democrats had made big strides in the 2018 midterm elections, when the Hispanic share of the vote grew dramatically compared with previous midterms, especially in states like California. He said the party worked to replicate turnout efforts from Nevada, a state where Democrats have mobilized Hispanic voters for years, and that redoubling those efforts in other states would pay dividends.

“Democrats can’t rest on the demographics automatically shifting into the ballot box. They need to do a lot of outreach, they need to connect with voters. A lot of these voters are first-time voters,” he said. “In Texas, there’s so much more yet-to-be-developed vote.”

Lopez said the GOP’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric may gin up its base of older, whiter and less well-educated voters, but it costs the party its ability to reach out to Hispanic voters, even those who hold more culturally conservative views.

He pointed to Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who beat a Democratic incumbent in 2018 in part by over-performing among Puerto Rican voters, and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who faces reelection in 2020, as examples of Republicans who have made inroads to minority voters. But he said the hard line on immigration coming from the White House threatened to erode that progress.

“People tend to take that personally. It’s just a pretty basic fact of politics that people aren’t going to vote for you if they think you don’t like them for who they are,” Lopez said.

Tags 2020 2020 campaign baby boomers Cory Gardner Donald Trump electorate Generation Z Millennials
See all Hill.TV See all Video