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White people are the only major race that votes GOP for president

By Chris Persaud

When it comes to U.S. presidential elections, the only major racial group that continues to vote for Republican candidates is white people.

During elections, pollsters stand outside voting booths across America, asking voters leaving their polling places who they voted for. The results of these surveys are published and reported on by news companies. The New York Times has visualized this data going back to the 1972 presidential race. Over the past 12 presidential cycles, one trend is clear. White voters are the only racial demographic in the electorate that consistently backs Republican candidates.

The charts below show more.

First up, we see that most white voters always prefer Republicans. Whether the candidate was Ronald Reagan (1980, 1984) – who helped grant amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants – or Donald Trump (2016), whose immigration policies and proposals include stripping rights from naturalized citizens and jailing immigrant kids.

Before 1972, white voters seemed to be more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats for president. Pre-election polling from Gallup stated 51 percent of white voters in 1960 chose Republican candidate Richard Nixon over Democrat John F. Kennedy, who won. In 1964, when Democrat Lyndon Johnson won a landslide victory (61 percent) against Republican opponent Barry Goldwater, 59 percent of whites reported voting for Johnson. That was likely the last time the Democrats won the white vote. In the three-way 1968 election – between Democrat Hubert Humphreys, Republican Richard Nixon, and segregationist George Wallace – the white vote split 38-47-15, according to pre-election polling from Gallup. Since 1972, clear majorities of white voters have flocked to Republican candidates. The only two exceptions were in 1992 and 1996, when a big chunk of whites cast ballots for billionaire third party candidate Ross Perot.

After Trump’s 2016 win over Hillary Clinton, news outlets reported that some blamed the Democrat’s defeat on losing the so-called white working-class. That meant white workers with no college degree. There seems to be some truth to that when looking at the chart below, but one thing is clear: White voters who never graduated college have voted Republican for at least 36 years.

Like the previous chart, we see that big majorities of the white working-class vote has gone Republican for decades. The last time a Democratic presidential candidate got more than 40 percent from the white working-class was 1996. During that election and in 1992, Perot helped split the white working-class evenly between the two major parties. Since then, GOP candidates have gotten an ever-bigger share of this demographic’s ballots. Trump won a record 67 percent of non-college-degree-holding white voters – more than Reagan in his landslide 1984 victory.

Until recently, white voters who never graduated college voted similarly to their counterparts who did. See the next chart.

In every presidential election since 1980, white voters with college degrees voted mostly like the white working-class. Most cast ballots for Republicans, although at a rate of a few percentage points lower than their white voters with no degree. But since 2004, white grads have pulled away from non-grads. The biggest example is 2016, where the gap between this group and their non-college counterparts was a record 18 points – 45 percent of white college grads reportedly chose Clinton, compared to a record low of 28 percent of degree-less whites. The exit poll states white college graduates went for Trump by a slim margin, but the New York Times’ Nate Cohn, who covers election polling, disputes that Trump won this demographic.

So that’s white voters. How about smaller racial groups? I’ll start with the least elastic voters of America’s major racial groups.

Black people have consistently back Democratic presidential candidates. And the share of them who vote Republican has steadily shrunk since the 1970s, when the GOP won about one in six of their votes. In the past three presidential elections, fewer than 10 percent of black voters chose Republicans. And unlike whites, relatively few vote third party. Nearly 90 percent or more have backed Democrats in this century.

Black voters rarely change their party support, but Hispanic voters have had bigger swings between the two parties.

While Hispanics usually favor Democrats, President George W. Bush showed in 2004 that a relatively pro-immigration message can persuade an unprecedented share of this demographic to vote Republican. Some analysts at the time doubted Bush won nearly half the Hispanic vote, but polls showed he got more from them than he did in 2000. Support from Protestant Hispanics for Bush jumped from 2000 to 2004. But since 2004, GOP candidates have struggled to win over more than 30 percent of Hispanics.

Next up, Asian-American voters. In the U.S., most people of Asian origin trace their roots to eastern Asian countries like China, Japan, Korea, The Philipines, and Vietnam. But this demographic also includes people whose origins are in other Asian countries like India and those in the Middle East. The voting pattern here shows an interesting trend.

Before Barack Obama won in the 2008 presidential election, many Asian-American voters wanted Republicans running the executive branch. In 1992, most Asian-American voters backed Republican President George H.W. Bush for reelection. Until 2008, the GOP managed to win over nearly half their votes. But since then, less than one in three voters in this demographic have supported Republican presidential candidates. The above chart shows Asian-Americans’ votes according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research, showing Trump winning just 29 percent of them. A report from the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund puts Trump’s share at 18 percent, with 32 percent of Vietnamese-American voters casting ballots for him, and 65 percent for Clinton.

Not only do major nonwhite demographics favor Democrats for president, their voting power steadily grows.

From 1972 to 1984, each exit pollster jotted down what they believed each voter’s race was. From 1988 onward, survey-takers noted what respondents said their race was. Since then, nonwhite voters have steadily become a bigger portion of presidential election voters. But the rate at which they’ve grown has been especially high since 2000. From 1988 to 2000, the nonwhite share of the electorate climbed four percentage points, compared to 11 from 2000 to 2016. Nonwhite voters will make up nearly a third of the electorate by 2020 if trends continue.

But Democrats have been fired up since the 2016 election, Pew Research reported in July. In December, majority-black counties in Alabama had such high voter turnout for the special Senate election that they helped elect the state’s first Democratic senator in decades, the Atlantic reported. Black voters made up an estimated 29 percent of the vote, while black people are 26 percent of the state’s population. In Virginia, white voters meanwhile went from 78 percent of the state’s gubernatorial electorate in 2009, to 72 percent in 2013, and finally 67 percent in 2017.

If minorities keep flooding the ballot box, will these pro-Democratic voters cast more than one-third of the ballots in November 2020?

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