California Demographic Breakdown: Minorities Becoming More Important To Republicans Every Year

(The article was co-authored by Matthew Jason.)

This is the first in a series of blog entries regarding specific voter demographics in California based on a merge of all the statewide interviews conducted by the California Office of Public Opinion Strategies going back to the beginning on 2004. This merge includes a total of over 31,000 statewide interviews.

We all know The Golden State was not friendly to the Republican Party in November of 2008 when President Obama (61{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) received more than 3.2 million more votes in the state than John McCain (37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}). Voter ethnicity played a large role in this colossal Democratic landslide in California. According to CNN Exit Polls, ninety-four percent (94{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of African American Voters, seventy-four percent (74{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Hispanic/Latino Voters, and sixty-four percent (64{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Asian Voters in California cast a vote for Barack Obama.

Further, all indications are that minority voter turnout reached unprecedented levels in California in 2008. Since the Secretary of State does not track ethnicity on the voter file or release any participation statistics by ethnicity, the ability to measure voter turnout in California along ethnic lines is not an exact science. That being said, we have studied the exit polls and carefully analyzed some other key data from the voter file in order to confirm the high minority voter turnout numbers, and they definitely appear legitimate.

The exit polls show that a full ten percent (10{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of California’s voters last November were African American, eighteen percent (18{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) were Hispanic/Latino, and six percent (6{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) were Asian. Only sixty-three percent (63{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of California voters were White in 2008, down from sixty-six percent (66{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) in 2004 and seventy-one percent (71{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) in 2000. These numbers clearly illustrate that White Voters in California do not carry nearly as much clout now as they did ten years ago. This means that trying to win enough of the White vote to offset the minority vote is not a legitimate strategy in California. If you cannot do the math yourself, just look at North Carolina where McCain won sixty-four percent (64{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of the White vote and still lost the state.

So we know that minority voters turned out in huge numbers in 2008, but will they continue to do so in future elections, even when a minority candidate is not at the top of the ticket? We believe they will continue to vote, and we believe that they will continue to become more and more important every election for one simple reason, they are much younger than White Voters. As part of our merge data, we interviewed over 22,000 White Voters, and only twenty-seven percent (27{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of them were under age 45. The under 45 number was fifty-seven (57{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) among Hispanic/Latino Voters (over 4100 interviews) and fifty-three percent (53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) among Asian Voters (over 1200 interviews).

More than a quarter (26{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of the White Voters we interviewed were over age 65 as compared to just nine percent (9{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of the Hispanic/Latino and Asian Voters respectively which fit into this “senior” demographic. Logic tells us natural attrition is going to take a much bigger toll on White Voters every year than it will on minority voters. This is not good news for a Republican Party which continues to rely too heavily on the White vote, especially here in California.

If the Republican Party is going to again become competitive in California, we must reach out to minority voters in general and Hispanic/Latino and Asian Voters specifically. We must learn what issues motivate them. We must craft messages specifically targeted to them. And, we must figure out how best to reach them with these new messages, one household at a time. This will not be easy, especially with Obama in power, but we need to start expending the time and resources right now if we ever expect to get the job done.


Public Opinion Strategies