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Sat Sep 26, 2020, 02:39 PM

The Changing Racial and Ethnic Composition of the U.S. Electorate

The upcoming 2020 presidential election has drawn renewed attention to how demographic shifts across the United States have changed the composition of the electorate.

In all 50 states, the share of non-Hispanic White eligible voters declined between 2000 and 2018, with 10 states experiencing double-digit drops in the share of White eligible voters. During that same period, Hispanic voters have come to make up increasingly larger shares of the electorate in every state. These gains are particularly large in the Southwestern U.S., where states like Nevada, California and Texas have seen rapid growth in the Hispanic share of the electorate over an 18-year period.1

These trends are also particularly notable in battleground states such as Florida and Arizona that are likely to be crucial in deciding the 2020 election.2 In Florida, two-in-ten eligible voters in 2018 were Hispanic, nearly double the share in 2000. And in the emerging battleground state of Arizona, Hispanic adults made up about one-quarter (24%) of all eligible voters in 2018, up 8 percentage points since 2000.

To be sure, the demographic composition of an area does not tell the whole story. Patterns in voter registration and voter turnout vary widely by race and ethnicity, with White adults historically more likely to be registered to vote and to turn out to vote than other racial and ethnic groups. Additionally, every presidential election brings its own unique set of circumstances, from the personal characteristics of the candidates, to the economy, to historic events such as a global pandemic. Still, understanding the changing racial and ethnic composition in key states helps to provide clues for how political winds may shift over time.

Black, Hispanic and Asian registered voters historically lean Democratic
The ways in which these demographic shifts might shape electoral outcomes are closely linked to the distinct partisan preferences of different racial and ethnic groups. Pew Research Center survey data spanning more than two decades shows that the Democratic Party maintains a wide and long-standing advantage among Black, Hispanic and Asian American registered voters.3 Among White voters, the partisan balance has been generally stable over the past decade, with the Republican Party holding a slight advantage.

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