This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Saturday, June 11, 2016

American Voting Population Not Quite as Diverse as Thought

Yesterday's NYTimes has a very thorough analysis of the demographics of the American voting public, organized by Nate Cohn. His conclusion is that there are more white, less well-educated, and older voters out there than most people think, because most information about voters comes from exit polls, which turn out to be not quite accurate. To the extent that these are people more likely to vote for Donald Trump than Hillary Clinton, this could work in Trump's favor. The problem with exit polls is that they are designed to figure out on the fly what the election results are going to be, but collecting good demographic information from respondents (and getting a good response rate in the first place) are not that easy. Cohn notes that there are two other key sources of information: (1) the Current Population Survey, which asks about voting behavior after each national election; and (2) a subscription-based service called Catalist, that compiles data from local registrars of voters.
New analysis by The Upshot shows that millions more white, older working-class voters went to the polls in 2012 than was found by exit polls on Election Day. This raises the prospect that Mr. Trump has a larger pool of potential voters than generally believed.
The wider path may help explain why Mr. Trump is competitive in early general election surveys against Hillary Clinton. And it calls into question the prevailing demographic explanation of recent elections, which held that Barack Obama did very poorly among whites and won only because young and minority voters turned out in record numbers. This story line led Republicans to conclude that they had maximized their support from white voters and needed to reach out to Hispanics to win in 2016.
Those previous conclusions emerged from exit polls released on election night. The new data from the census, voter registration files, polls and the finalized results tells a subtly different story with potential consequences for the 2016 election.
You can see that both the CPS and Catalist suggest a somewhat different demographic makeup of voters than the story told by exit polls. To the extent that white, non-college-educated older people are Republican, they may also be more racist than others in society, according to an Op-Ed in the NYTimes two days ago. We will have to wait until November to see if this is going to make a difference in the Presidential election.

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