We have learned that the country’s changing demographics will have a major affect on future Presidential elections, perhaps starting this year. Minority segments or population of the United States are growing more rapidly then their non-Hispanic white counterpart and since minorities usually vote heavily for Democratic candidates, the GOP is expected to be increasingly at a disadvantage. However, the country’s minority voters are also expected to be a major factor in the 2016 Democratic primaries and caucuses. Hispanic and Afro American Democratic voters in particular are in large part less liberal than their white brethren and most don’t appear to be enlisting for Bernie Sanders’ revolution.
In Iowa minorities make up only 9 percent of the Democratic voting population, so as expected, entrance polls at the recent caucuses had only small groups of minorities to sample. However, if the data from those samples is accurate, Bernie is fortunate that minorities didn’t make up a greater percentage of the Iowa electorate during the caucuses. He had the backing of only 33% of the minorities who caucused while over 60% voted for Hillary Clinton.
That statistic will not matter a great deal in New Hampshire (February 9th) where minorities make up just 5% of the Democratic voters, but it doesn’t bode well for Sanders in the thirteen follow on state primaries and caucuses scheduled between February 20th and March 1st.
A week after New Hampshire is the Nevada caucus (2/20). Nevada’s Hispanics make up one-fifth of the state’s voters. The state also has sizeable African-American and Asian-American populations so overall minorities make up 39% of the population of Nevada. Since most of Nevada’s minorities vote Democratic, they will make up an even larger percentage of the voters in the state’s Democratic caucuses.
Next on February 27th comes the South Carolina Democratic primary where minorities are expected to make up fully 55% of the voters. Then, four days later are the so called “Southeastern Conference Primaries”, consisting of 11 states and the territory of American Samoa, which are all scheduled for February first. The states participating will be: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia. Obviously this set of primaries is heavily weighted with Southern states, hence the nickname.
All seven of the Southern states have very large Afro American and/or Hispanic populations. Yes, I am including Oklahoma whose voting population is 27.8% minorities. In addition, the white Democrats in these Southern states are more moderate in their political views than their more liberal counterparts in Iowa and especially in New Hampshire and that does not bode well for Bernie Sanders.
The situation doesn’t much better for Sanders in the in the non Southern states in the March 1st primary. In 2004 George W Bush narrowly won Colorado, but since then the state’s minority population has been rising steadily enabling Barack Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012. Currently minorities make up 30% of Colorado’s population. Since most of them vote Democratic, minorities will make up an even larger percentage of voters in the Colorado caucus giving the advantage to Clinton. While a smaller 18% percent of the Massachusetts voters are minorities, they have helped Clinton open a large lead in the Bay State. We don’t normally think of Minnesota a very racially diverse state, but for some reason Hillary is also way ahead in the most recent Minnesota polls.
So once the Democratic race for the Presidential nomination has Iowa and New Hampshire in its rear view mirror, demographics will make life a lot more difficult for Bernie Sanders. This is in large part this is why that after New Hampshire, Bernie will only be favored in his home state of Vermont in the next 13 state primaries. Here is the most recent polling data available for those contests:
Nevada – average of 2 most recent polls – Hillary +19.5
South Carolina – average of 2 most recent polls – Hillary +29.5
Alabama (58 delegates) – no recent polls, expected to be like other southern states
American Samoa (10 delegates) – no recent polls
Arkansas (37 delegates) – no recent polls, expected to be like other southern states
Colorado (77 delegates) – poll in November – Hillary +28
Georgia (116 delegates) – poll in October – Hillary +57
Massachusetts (121 delegates) – poll in November – Hillary +25
Minnesota (94 delegates) – poll in January – Hillary +35
Oklahoma (42 delegates) – poll in November – Hillary +35
Tennessee (77 delegates) – poll in November – Hillary +20
Texas (237 delegates) – poll in November – Hillary +31
Vermont (23 delegates) – no recent polls
Virginia (112 delegates) – poll in November – Hillary +36
Bernie had months to get his message out to minority voters in Iowa and he only persuaded 30% of them to vote for him. Comparatively his time line for persuading minorities in the 13 states with follow on primaries and caucuses will be vanishingly small.
Nor do Bernie Sanders’ minority problems end there. To win the Democratic nomination a candidate must do well in states which have the greatest numbers of delegates. The fact that states with large populations also have tendencies to have very diverse populations is a factor in Hilary’s favor. Fortunately, a number of these larger states also have fairly recent polls so we have some insight into which direction they are leaning in the Democratic nomination race. So let’s take a look at the most populous states for which reasonably valid polls already exist.
We have see already seen some of the large Southern states like Georgia, Texas, and Virginia listed above as part of the 3/1 set of primaries, but because of their large number of delegates they deserve special mention.
Georgia’s population has been growing rapidly in recent years and many of its new residents are minorities. Minorities now make up 44.1% of Georgia’s population and Democrats have been engaging in a very aggressive and successful drives to register minority voters, a fact which has Georgia’s Republican officials very concerned.
The percentage Texas’ population self identifying as minorities has jumped to 54.7% meaning it is a majority minority state. Texas of course has a very large Hispanic population, but also a large black population as well. Since both groups vote overwhelmingly Democratic and many white Texans vote Republican, minorities will make up an even larger majority of the Democrats voting in the Lone Star State’s primary.
Virginia’s minority population has been growing at a slower rate, but minorities now makes up 35.2% of the state’s population. Two thirds of that total is Afro American and most of the rest is Hispanic. Like Texas, since the vast majority of Virginia Afro Americans and Hispanics vote Democratic, they are expected to make up an even greater share of the voters in the February 1st primary.
The Democratic primary in Florida, another Southern state with many delegates, is not one of the February 1st contests; it is scheduled for 15 days later on March 15th. As of December of 2015, Florida, minorities make up 42.1% of the state’s population. And following the trend of other Southern states, minorities will make up more than half of the state’s voters in its Democratic primary.
In addition to the minority factor, it is well known that white Southern Democrats are not as liberal as the Democrats in many other parts of the country such as the North East and West Coast. Hence they naturally view a socialist candidate such as Bernie Sanders with a lot more skepticism than the Democrats in New Hampshire, Iowa and even California. So in the big Southern states, Sanders faces a double dose for trouble – large populations of minority voters and more moderate white Democratic voters. You can see those two factors at work in the poll numbers below.
Georgia (3/1 – 116 delegates) – poll in October – Hillary +57
Texas (3/1 – 237 delegates) – poll in November – Hillary +31
Virginia (3/1 – 112 delegates – 3/1) – poll in Nov. – Hillary +36
Florida (3/15 – 246 delegates) – poll in January – Hillary +36
Moving on, California has the largest number of delegates to the Democratic National Convention (476) and votes June 7th. Its minority population segments have been growing very rapidly and together now make up a majority of the state’s population. The percentage of minority residents in California has grown 59.9% of the total. However, it should be noted that as a whole, California’s white Democrats are usually more liberal than their counterparts in the South and it possible that is also true for its minority Democrats as well. This may in part account for the fact that while Hillary’s lead is still significant in California, it isn’t as large as those in the Southern states above.
California (6/7 – 476 delegates) – poll in January – Hillary +11
We also have fairly recent polls for several of the large delegate states in the North East.
In Massachusetts minorities make up 20.5% of the population while in Maryland that percentage is 45.3%. In New Jersey, minorities make up 40.7% percent of the state’s population. In Pennsylvania a smaller 20.5% of the population is made up of minority groups. In these four states with large delegate counts, minority groups have helped Hillary Clinton build substantial leads:
Massachusetts (3/1 – 121 delegates) – poll in Nov. – Hillary +25
Maryland (4/26 -105 delegates) – poll in January – Hillary +13
New Jersey (6/7 – 142 delegates) – 2 polls in Nov. – Hillary +35
Pennsylvania (4/26 – 181 delegates) – poll in Jan. – Hillary +17
A word of caution here – please note in the poll results, in many states the most recent poll(s) were taken in November. In the ever changing world of nomination politics these polls are a bit too old for my comfort. However, they are all we have for the time being. Also note that Hillary Clinton’s lead over Bernie Sanders for those earlier polls is almost universally larger than is being reported by the most recent polls taken in January in other similar states.
Data from the national polls seem to indicate that the race between Clinton and Sanders has tightened between November and the present. Based on RealClearPolitics.com data, nationally in November Hillary’s lead over Bernie was 21% to 25%, but after that polls indicated that her lead began to shrink. On January 14th Sanders topped out (at least temporarily) at 39.7%. With Clinton at 48.3% at that point, Bernie had cut her national lead to 8.6%. However, in the last three weeks Sanders has been on a bit of a slide in the national polls and Clinton has been on a bit of a roll and currently she leads Bernie by 15.5% nationally – 51.8% to 36.3%.
While Hillary still holds a very substantial lead nationally, it is reasonable to conclude that her leads in the state polls canvassed in November may be overstated based on the current status of the race. However, I think the Southern states may have defied this trend. Hillary’s leads in Southern states for which we have current polls are still huge. For example we have almost continuous polling in South Carolina and while Clinton’s lead is currently smaller than it was in that state in November, her lead is still averaging nearly 30%. We see the same thing in Florida where a poll taken in the middle of November had Hillary ahead by 42% and a poll taken the middle of January gave her a 36% lead.
I fully expect the other Southern states to follow suit with South Carolina and Florida because they all have similar very large minority population segments and mostly moderate white Democrats. While the race may have tightened somewhat for the rest of the nation, I fully expect the Southern states to deliver big for Hillary.
The real bad news for Sanders is that all of the Southern states appear very early in the Democratic primary and caucus schedule. As noted earlier, voting in 7 Southern states including Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Okalahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia are only three weeks away on March 1st. Right behind them is Louisiana on March 5th, Mississippi on March 8th, followed by Florida and North Carolina on March 15th. It is a fairly to predict that, unless there is some kind of catastrophe, Hillary will win big in all of those Southern states.
In summary, after New Hampshire Bernie Sanders faces a gauntlet of states with very large minority populations including Nevada, South Carolina and then the eleven states which cast their ballots March 1st. It is a very good possibility that Sanders will lose heavily in all of those states except in his home state of Vermont. Any momentum Bernie has coming out of New Hampshire is very likely to be crushed and reversed. Any hope he has of recovery after that will be blunted almost immediately by four follow on Southern states with very large minority populations and then by several states large numbers of delegates with similar demographics which vote though out the rest of the primary and caucus schedule.
Much has been made of the fact that starting with this Presidential election year and into the future, growing minority population segments throughout the country will provide the Democratic Presidential nominees an advantage over their Republican rivals. However, even before the 2016 Presidential election, those same minority populations, along with the moderate nature of Southern Democrats, are expected to put an end to Bernie Sanders’ “revolution”.