Grand Olds Party

March 17, 2013
Posted by Jay Livingston
Cross-posted at Sociological Images

Jeb Bush told CPAC that the Republican party had an image problem.
Way too many people believe that Republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker.
People have good reason to believe those things. But the “way too many” suggests that the GOP’s problem is not image or brand, it’s demography. For five years or longer, the Republican faithful have been complaining that “their” country was being taken away from them, and they were going to take it back. (See my “Repo Men” post from 2011.)

They were right. Their country, a country dominated by older white men, is fading in the demographic tide. The groups whose numbers in the electorate are on the rise don’t look like them.  Andrew Gelman (here) recently published these maps on who votes Republican and who votes Democrat. The maps are an update to his 2009 Red State, Blue State.

(The exit poll the data are based on sampled only in the 30 most competitive state. Texas and Georgia are large, and they have significant non-White populations. But demographic changes there are unlikely to have much effect on which party gets their electoral votes.)

The non-White proportion of the electorate will continue to grow. The female proportion may also increase, especially as education levels of women rise (more educated people are more likely to vote than are the less educated).  The key factor is party loyalty.  And, at least in presidential elections, people do remain loyal. I think I once read, “If you can get them for two consecutive elections, you’ve got them for life.”  Or words to that effect.  If that’s true, the age patterns of the last two elections should be what the Republicans are worrying about.

Trying to make themselves more attractive to younger people will not be easy. Oldsmobile tried it not so long ago (a post on that campaign is here).  “This is not your father’s GOP” might have similar lack of success.  But insisting that this is still your father’s GOP (or more accurately, some white dude’s father’s GOP) seems like a formula for failure.

No comments: