The Changing American Voter

July 1, 2020

It’s one of those laws of the universe, isn’t it? Nothing stays the same. Things change.” – Author: Sam Gayton

Sometimes you become immune to demographic changes. They sneak up on you until one day you wake up and find that the world you thought you knew has moved on and left you with new people and ideas that no one ever mentioned before. This is a good thing and you must grow with it.

People grow old and younger folks take their place, and with them comes a new political environment. The U.S. is now facing such an demographic revolution as the decline of the Baby Boomer generation accelerates. America is becoming more diverse, with new ideas and beliefs.

With the recent exposure of police brutality regarding Black Americans has bared this nation’s history of unequal treatment for many of its citizens.

Some historic and long dead figures in American history, now face new public scrutiny about what they both said and acted on during their life on earth. And Mississippi has finally removed the Confederate symbol from its own flag. As Bob Dylan once sang, “The Times They are A-Changin’.”

Politics are not immune from these changes. White voters who have dominated American politics since the Revolution are starting to show their age. In the following chart, we can see how white voters are declining as a percent of the electorate since 1990, by some 14% in just 28 years.

Source: United State Election Project

Some of this decline is due to deaths, but most of it is caused by the increasing number of other ethnic groups, particularly Black voters. As an example of the increasing voting power of Black voters demonstrated in the 2012 presidential race where turnout for White non-Hispanic voters was 64.1% and for Blacks 66.2%. This is the first time since the Census Bureau began recording turnout numbers that the Black voter turnout was greater than White’s.

This high turnout was due largely to Barack Obama on the ballot, but illustrates the increasing influence on Black voters in election outcomes. This statistic alone should convince the Biden campaign to add a Black woman to his presidential ticket.

The next chart gives some overall perspective of how this change is effecting turnout in recent elections.

Source: United States Elections Project

The blue line in this chart shows the yearly turnout rate for non-Hispanic Whites since 1986 and the red line Black voters. You can see how Black voters have slowly gained on whites turnout rates. In the 2016 presidential election, Black voters fell 5% from the previous presidential election. With the loss of these voters, Hillary Clinton lost the election.

In 2020, the composition of the turnout will likely determine the outcome. Trump voters are still likely to show up and Biden is not Hillary Clinton. Biden’s success will depend on Black voters. If White voters continue to decline, the Republican Party will over time will suffer. “Demographics are destiny” said Auguste Comte. Be safe…

By Jim Kane

Jim Kane is a pollster and media advisor, and was for fifteen years an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Florida. Kane is founder of the polling firm USAPoll and served as the Director of the Florida Voter Poll. His political clients have included both Republican and Democratic candidates, including the Republican Party of Florida, and both the Sun-Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel newspapers. At the University of Florida, Professor Kane taught graduate level courses in political science on Survey Research, Lobbying and Special Interest Groups in America, Political Campaigning, and Political Behavior. In addition to his professional and academic career, Jim Kane has been actively involved in local and state policy decisions. He was elected to the Broward County Soil and Water Conservation Board (1978-1982) and the Port Everglades Authority (1988-1994). Kane also served as an appointed member of the Broward County Planning Council (1995-2003), Broward County Management Review Committee (Chair, 1990-1991), Broward County Consumer Protection Board (1976-1982), and the Broward County School Board Consultants Review Committee (1986-1990).


  1. Hi, Jim
    You say the demographic shift is due to increases in Black and Hispanic voters, not white deaths, but whites are aging and dying. Do you have those numbers?
    I read where Trump is counting on a repeat of 1968 and presumably knowledgeable pundits referring to Nixon’s “swrep.” That was 1972 , ’68 was the closest election in history. How have the demographics changed since ’68?
    i’m now 81 and we are well and happy in Mexico Jack

    1. Jack, great to hear from you. I’m glad you are safe and happy. The virus has really changed Ft. Lauderdale. Our friends are all safe and staying home. A few go to lunch on Friday, but with the increase in cases I’m holding back until we see a significant reduction in cases. As for your question, my initial comment was “Some of this decline is due to deaths…” If you go back to ’68, you are probably correct there has been significant change due to deaths, but my time frame for the post was from the 1990’s where the changes due to deaths have been less significant (after all, you and I are still kicking.) The biggest change has been the increase among Black voters, including their increased participation rate. White voters are still the majority, but they are declining proportionately to other demographic groups. Miss you guy, be safe…Jim

    1. In 2016, white non-Hispanic deaths exceeded births for the first time in history, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. They expect this trend to continue in the future. The decline in the percentage of white voters in recent elections is caused by increasing percentages in other racial groups, especially Black voters. If White deaths continue to exceed births, this will only accelerate this trend. Jim

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