22 July 2011

GOP Getting More White, Democratic Party, Less So

Race has come to be a bigger factor in party identification from 2008 to 2011.

Whites have become more likely to ID as Republican. A majority of whites in every adult age group, and every income group of $30,000 per year+ is majority Republican. Low incomer income whites are still more likely to identify as Republican than Democratic, and have seen GOP party ID leap by ten percentage points in three years. GOP identification has also risen by ten percentage points among whites aged 18-29. Overall 52% of whites are Republicans and 39% are Democrats now. GOP identification rates are increasingly similar across all ages and income groups for whites.

There was a small increase in black GOP identification (from 6% to 8%), but that may be simply a statistical blip that is a produce of modest sample sizes; 86% of blacks identify politically as Democrats. Also, the two percentage point gain in blacks is still smaller in percentage point terms than the four percentage point gain for the overall population for Republicans: voters overall are 43% Republican and 47% Democratic in their political identity.

Republican identification among Hispanics has dropped six percentage points to 22% Republican and 64% Democratic. (The numbers don't total to 100% because one can be independent or affiliate with a third party.) The situation with Hispanics is really more complicated than it appears because on important Hispanic subgroup, Cuban-Americans, which is significant mostly in Florida, accounts for a disproportionate share of Hispanic Republicans.

This source doesn't have a regional breakdown. My suspicion is that Southern whites are Republicans at much higher rates than other whites. It may be the by far dominant party for Southern whites who are also more likely to vote the party line, while whites outside the South may be fairly evenly split between the political parties and less reliable in voting for their political party.

The apparent shift in party ID may mostly be a product of conservative white Democrats in the South (Dixiecrats) either dying, becoming Republicans (perhaps in response to President Obama's Presidency) or aging out of younger age brackets, while their children and grandchildren identify as Republicans from the start. In other words, it may be just one more manifestation of the continuing process of "realignment" in which the Democratic party becomes more purely politically liberal, and the Republican party becomes more purely politically conservative, rather than a shift in political opinion by race.

In terms of brand identification, realignment is great. It is easier than every to know what each party stands for and inform one's vote accordingly. But, since elected officials run on major party tickets, it may be harder than it used to be for a political moderate to get elected on either major party ticket. And, an absence of political moderates can produce the political deadlocks we see today.

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