Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Demographic divisions

I'm not going to blither tonight about the Democratic dead heat and continuing Republican horror show yesterday in Iowa.

Instead, let's look at some findings about the country's demographic and political trends from a dump by Pew Research.
It's a truism that the country is becoming more "brown." That is, we're less monochromatically white, more a land whose people own many racial, ethnic and other identities, Black, Latino, Native, various Asian-origins, and all-mixed-up, as well as white. This is such a departure from both past reality and the image many of us carry of the nation's history, we could hardly miss the sensation that something is changing. But something else is changing as dramatically:

The U.S. is on its way to becoming a majority nonwhite nation, and at the same time, a record share of Americans are going gray.

Census demographers spelled this out in 2012:

There are now more Americans age 65 and older than at any other time in U.S. history. According to a new Census Bureau report, there were 40.3 million people age 65 and older on April 1, 2010, up 5.3 percent from 35 million in 2000 (and just 3.1 million in 1900).

Pew attributes our intense partisan sorting into camps that often barely speak or recognize each other to the convergence of these demographic trends. An older white population whose relative demographic weight is decreasing has clustered in the Republican party, while everyone else -- those both younger and browner -- drifts or runs to the Democratic column.
The right hand column is the important one here. Lots of voters claim to be independent or "non-partisan" but political scientists have found that true independents who are actually open to either political party's blandishments are very rare, less than 5 percent of the electorate. Regardless of what we call ourselves, most of us are partisans, most of the time. And if you look at the right column, every age cohort under 68 leans toward the Democrats. Obviously, not all these people are making themselves heard with their votes; in fact the Democratic ones seem to sit out all but presidential contests. But the trend line is clear here.

If this nation is to be less divided and rancorous, we not only need to speak with one another across cultural and racial chasms, but also across divides of age and experience. We scare each other. In some situations, we have different needs and material interests. But we also share a country and a national future. Many of us have children who will carry on with whatever we leave them. Listening, learning and some compassion are needed.

3 comments:

Brandon said...

"[P]olitical scientists have found that true independents who are actually open to either political party's blandishments are very rare"

And what about the third parties?

Hattie said...

That bar graph is stunning. The America I grew up in has pretty well vanished. We are a far more interesting country now than we were then.

janinsanfran said...

Hi Brandon: the structure of our political system -- many winner take all elections -- makes it hard for third parties to appeal. Lots of folks say they want another party and even sometimes say they will vote for non-party candidates. But when election day comes they end up choosing a Dem or GOPer. So what started at say 8 percent support turns out to be 2 percent support. Happens over and over.

I'm not saying this is good, just how it usually works.

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