Trump faces greater electoral challenge than impeachment
It is no secret that President Trump won the White House in the 2016 election by turning out his base and by appealing to white working class voters, mainly across midwestern states, that were once a part of the Democratic coalition. While his core base of supporters remains solid, shifts in the demographic makeup of the electorate point to potentially serious challenges for his 2020 reelection campaign.
The United States is becoming more diverse. Populations of racial and ethnic minorities are growing faster than whites, and one of the fastest growing groups consists of those who identify as mixed race. Generally, racial and ethnic groups vote homogeneously, and any group sizably growing or shrinking will have an electoral impact on both parties.
In 2016, Pew Research Center conducted a survey examining the racial profile of Democratic and Republican voters. Republican voters were notably homogenous, with 86 percent identifying as white, 6 percent identifying as Hispanic, 5 percent as mixed race, and just 2 percent as black. Democratic voters were markedly more diverse, with 57 percent identifying as white, 21 percent identifying as black, 12 percent as Hispanic, 5 percent as mixed race, and 3 percent as Asian.
In only a few years, demographics have shifted, with the most substantive changes occurring among Hispanics, a particularly politicized group. Indeed, a record 32 million Hispanic voters will be eligible to vote next year, a number that has surged 20 percent since the 2016 election. The 2020 election will mark the first time Hispanics constitute the largest voting minority, accounting for just over 13 percent of eligible voters, according to a Pew Research Center survey this year.
The census projects that the national population is diversifying, and that the only demographic group projected to decline in population is whites, who were estimated to decrease from 62 percent in 2014 to 44 percent in 2016. Republicans, and specifically the Trump reelection campaign, will experience the consequences of this demographic shift. This trend drastically limits their ability to grow their voting base and appeal to an increasingly diverse general electorate, given the stance of the president on immigration and his hateful rhetoric towards minorities.
Moreover, these national demographic shifts are even more pronounced in battleground states such as Florida and Pennsylvania, which spells even greater electoral trouble for the president. Notably, down in Florida, where a constitutional amendment was recently passed to restore voting rights to more than one million felons, the voting demographics of the state have now fundamentally shifted in numerous ways.
The majority of the voting age population under 70 years of age are people of color, and minority groups have grown by 25 percent since 2010, according to census estimates released this year. This figure likely also includes more than 300,000 Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria. In a crucial swing state that Trump won by just 113,000 votes in 2016, his strategy of simply turning out his base will not be enough to win the state next year.
Similarly, in Pennsylvania, many of these national trends hold true. The only racial group that decreased in population in the state are whites. Since 2010, the black population has grown 30 percent, and the Hispanic population has grown 35 percent, according to census data and the Population Research Institute at Pennsylvania State University. The census also noted that the coal mining town of Hazleton, whose residents were 95 percent white in 2000, now has a majority of Latinos, who comprise a striking 52 percent of the population. Pennsylvania is another critical swing state that Trump won by a narrow vote margin in 2016.
Given these notable demographic shifts, strategies his campaign and Republicans successfully employed in 2016 will likely not produce the same result in 2020. To achieve victory, Trump must do more than just pander to his base and focus on the sobering data which displays core demographic shifts that are simply not in his favor. He has proven to be adept at controlling the media narrative surrounding him, and I do not doubt that it will be difficult for Democrats to beat him next year.
However, even if impeachment backfires on the Democrats politically, as I suspect it might, the realities embedded in the emerging population data illustrate a serious uphill battle for Trump to win reelection in 2020.
Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. He is a political consultant, Fox News contributor, and the author of “Collapse: A World in Crisis and the Urgency of American Leadership.”