|Yeah, and it keep getting bigger|
The demographic story of modern American presidential elections is the increase in the Hispanic vote.
It has gone from 1% in 1976 to 11% in 2012.
That's a pretty amazing number. I frankly had no idea the increase was so great.
Let's look at how the different ethnic demographic groups have voted in the last ten presidential elections since 1976 (all the data in this post is taken from here):
Whites have always voted Republican - 58% on average. The closest whites came to voting Democrat was in three races where the Democrat was a "moderate" (or so it was perceived) southerner. Carter (in his first run) and Clinton (in both runs) each got between 48% and 49% of the white vote.
Hispanics have always voted Democrat - 66% on average. This has varied from 55% (2004) to 82% (1976). Why or how it has moved within that range is somewhat hard to pinpoint. In general, it hasn't closely tracked the overall vote.
Blacks have always voted Democrat - 90% on average. This has varied from 83% (1976) to 96% (2008). As with the numbers for Hispanics, the swings don't appear to track the overall vote very closely.
In the 21st century, Asians have made up a steadily growing voter block, now up to perhaps 4%. They've been even more reliably Democrat than Hispanics, breaking 75% to 25% Democrat.
As much as issues and personalities seem to matter so much at the time, no candidate on either side has succeeded in "flipping" any of these groups in any election since 1964.
Now, here are the demographic breakdowns of voters in 1976, 1996 and 2016 (projected):
Along with the increase in the Hispanic vote from 1% to 11% has gone a decrease in the white vote from 89% to 70%. The Hispanic vote has increased by1% every election cycle. In turn, the white vote has gone down by 2% every cycle.
Given these numbers, and the historical voting patterns of the groups, Merely in order to win a bare plurality of the popular vote, the Republicans will need to get 62% of the white vote in order to win in 2016.
This has only happened once in at least the last 50 years - Reagan's re-election in 1984.
It will need to be 64% in 2020.
Among other things, this shows that immigration from Latin America has been good for Democrats. It has given them a virtual lock on the presidency.
An alternative way of analyzing the data is to argue that Republicans just haven't done a very good job at attracting Hispanic voters. They don't need an anti-immigration candidate to staunch the proportional vote drain (on this alternate view). Rather, they need a pro-immigration candidate to pick up more votes from, so to speak, where the proportional votes are draining to.
Whatever you think of immigration or race or the merits of Democratic vs. Republican candidates, it's hard to see how the alternate view is tenable. The Hispanic support numbers don't vary that much, and to the extent that they do vary, they don't appear to vary according to any particular pattern of, say, Republican candidates being less "mean" or what have you. Quasi-pro-immigration George W. Bush got a high of 45% of the Hispanic vote in 2004. But he only got 36% in 2000. Pro-immigration John McCain only got 32% of the Hispanic vote in 2008.
I should say that the patterns for whites don't vary by all that much either (the range is actually smaller than that for Hispanics). But since the white vote is still at least five times as great as the Hispanic vote, the "payoff" for, say, an increase of 1% in the white vote is still much greater.
Trump might break these patterns, or at least get closer to breaking them than his Republican predecessors. He's certainly a different sort of candidate on the issues that Romney, McCain or Bush. Whether this will rebound to his favor or whether even if it does, that will be enough for him to win remains to be seen.
We'll know in a few hours.