Why the Voters of 2016 Are Likely to Be Younger and More Diverse

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from The New York Times,

A midterm election has come and gone, and now begins a new round of speculation about whether the Democrats can remobilize young and nonwhite voters in 2016.

The question hinges on how much of the growing nonwhite share of the electorate is the result of President Obama’s unique appeal.

This is a topic that will get a far deeper treatment in time, but for now, we can say that the preponderance of data on demographics and turnout suggests that voters will be at least as diverse as they were in 2012, when Mr. Obama won re-election.

The reason for such confidence? The data on turnout and demographics suggests that the growing nonwhite share of the electorate is primarily the result of demographics, not enthusiasm for Mr. Obama.

The white share of eligible voters has declined from above 75 percent in 2004 to 70 percent today. That five-point drop-off mirrors the 5.5-point decline in the white share of the electorate over the same period.

The white share of eligible voters will most likely slip further, to under 69 percent in 2016. The result is that the electorate will probably be as diverse as it was in 2012, even if nonwhite turnout rates drop and white turnout increases.

That’s not to say that Mr. Obama didn’t drive turnout higher, particularly among black voters. But even there, the contribution of Mr. Obama is smaller than one might expect. Sixty percent of eligible black voters turned out in 2004, compared with 66 percent in 2012.

There are a few confounding issues that will receive more attention in later posts, like the effect of the youth of the nonwhite population, which would tend to suppress nonwhite turnout rates, and the effect of an aging white population, which would tend to boost white turnout. But youth turnout was not particularly high in 2012, and that alone would not be enough to offset the steady diversification of the pool of eligible voters.

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