Changing Demographics

This month, the Collaborative Services blog has been writing about elections — and arguably the biggest story of this year’s election cycle is the impact of the nation’s changing demographics.

Here’s an interesting statistic for people wondering who our elected officials might be two decades from now:

For the first time in our nation’s history, more non-white babies than white babies were born in the U.S. in 2011. Not only does this increase our likelihood that our future leaders will be more diverse, it also means leaders need to be ready to greet a diverse voting population when these babies turn 18.

Credit: West Orlando News Online

The 2012 presidential election showed just how diverse our voting population has become.  And that fact is motivating today’s political parties to make similar adjustments to the countless businesses who have discovered it pays to court America’s increasingly diverse population.

Credit: examiner.com

The trends are undeniable in a country where citizens were able to vote this year in 68 different languages. Non-whites made up 28 percent of the electorate this year. In the 2008 presidential election, that number was 20 percent.

White males, by contrast, made up just 34 percent of this year’s electorate. That’s down significantly from the 46 percent in 1972.

“The new electorate is a lagging indicator of the next America,” Paul Taylor of the Pew Research Center says here. “We are mid-passage in a century-long journey from the middle of the last century, when we were nearly a 90 percent white nation, to the middle of this coming century, when we will be a majority-minority nation.”

Eight U.S. metropolitan areas – including San Diego – have already reached the point where the number of non-white voters outnumbers the number of white voters, a trend that has created a new term: “majority-minority status”.

In some ways, politicians are just now discovering what businesses such as IBM have already learned.

IBM, for instance, is reaping the rewards for its decision to reach out to the growing number of women-and minority-owned business and forge relationships with them.

The author notes, “In 2001, IBM began assigning executives to develop relationships with the largest women and minority-owned businesses in the United States. This was important not only because these business sectors are growing fast, but because their leaders are often highly visible role models, whose IT needs will grow and become increasingly more sophisticated. Already, these assignments have yielded impressive revenue streams with several of these companies.”

Credit: The Associated Press

Political strategists say that candidates today need to learn this lesson quickly and propose policies and hone their messages to attract this growing diverse population. If not, they could be doomed. This Brookings Institution story, predicted as early as May how a diverse voting population could potentially impact November’s election.

According to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, the non-white population grew 30 percent from 2000 to 2010, with the Latino population growing the fastest at 43 percent. The Asian-American population grew 26 percent.

Young people are becoming a bigger part of the electorate, too. In this most recent election, people between the ages of 18 and 29 made up 19 percent of the electorate, according to exit polling, an increase of one percentage point from 2008.

Women, as well, are more influential. Indeed, they are not the minority. They voted in greater percentages than men and have been doing so since 1980. In 2008, more than 70 million women voted, compared to 60.7 million men.

To get an idea of our nation’s diversity, look at the many different bilingual ballots available to voters.

The Voting Rights Act orders that language assistance be provided if a minority group speaking the same language makes up five percent of the voting-age population of the community. In 2012, one in 18 jurisdictions were required to provide this language help.

Credit: Jason Margolis/KQED

One was San Diego County, where election assistance was written in Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese to accommodate the growing population of these groups. As noted in a previous blog of ours (May 23, 2012 “Words that Get Around”), meaning can be lost in translation. Getting a translation “right” is a challenge. For instance, when it came to the Vietnamese translation, the word used for “registration,” was one associated with prison camps, according to this New York Times story. The translation was changed.

Not only is the electorate becoming more diverse, so are political candidates. In this most recent election, the first openly gay American-Asian, Mark Takano, was elected to Congress.

Political candidates are also reflecting another part of the nation’s growing diversity and that is in their religious affiliations. For the first time, a Buddhist will serve in the Senate. This Pew Research Center report notes that the new Congress will also have the first Hindu to serve as well.

And the upcoming Congress will set another mark signaling change: There will be 20 women senators, the most in history.

Because of the changing demographics, experts have been predicting that a new day in American politics would be dawning. In fact it may already be here.

Mike Stetz, Senior Writer
Collaborative Services, Inc.

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