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Race, Immigration and America's Changing Electorate

Publication Abstract

Download PDF versionFrey, William H. 2008. "Race, Immigration and America's Changing Electorate." PSC Research Report No. 08-635. April 2008.

One of the most profound changes in America's demography this century will be its shifting race and ethnic makeup. The rise of immigration from Latin America and Asia, the higher fertility of some minorities and the slow growth of America's aging white population will have profound impacts on the nation's demographic profile, with important implications for the electorate. The significance of these changes on identity politics, new racial coalitions and reactions to immigration have already been seen in the 2008 presidential sweepstakes. Yet, these shifts are only the tip of the iceberg of what can be expected in future election cycles as Hispanic, Asian, and Black Americans make up ever larger shares of the electorate.

This report discusses the shifts playing out in 2008, but with an eye toward what they will mean in the future. It begins by examining the magnitude of new minority population growth, how it differs from past election cycles, and the lag that immigrant minorities experience in translating their growth into actual voting power. It then goes on to discuss how these groups differ from each other on basic social and demographic profiles and on key political issues, with special emphasis on immigration. The report addresses the basic question of how important these groups will be in deciding the 2008 presidential election. It assesses their projected impact in key 'purple' battleground states, as well as their potential impacts in safer parts of the country.

It concludes by taking a longer view of what the nation's changing race-ethnic makeup will imply for the future, as both new and old minorities comprise larger numbers of younger and middle-age voters, and as their geographic reach affects ever greater parts of the electorate. At the same time, it emphasizes that, for the present, presidential candidates will need to cope with a racially balkanized electorate, with regionally distinct voting blocks that face sometimes conflicting interests, especially in the highly prized purple states.

Country of focus: United States.

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