After losing the 2012 presidential election, the Republican Party admitted it needs to do more to attract non-white voters or risk becoming irrelevant at the national level.
The Republican National Committee published an autopsy report in March 2013 that offered a plan to rid the GOP of its reputation as a party of "stuffy old men." It recommended increased outreach to Asian, black, and Hispanic voters and supporting immigration reform.
"The RNC cannot and will not write off any demographic, community, or region of this country," RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said at the time.
The report was an acknowledgement that the GOP's strategy of relying on older, whiter voters is becoming unsustainable due to rapid population growth among Hispanics and Asians. And a new study released Tuesday shows how this group of increasingly powerful voters is transforming elections.
The liberal Center for American Progress and the conservative American Enterprise Institute, and demographer William H. Frey teamed up to analyze the demographic changes from 1974 to 2060.
In 1980, 16 percent of eligible voters (U.S. citizens age 18 and over) were minorities. This year, that percentage is 30 percent and is projected to become 50 percent by 2052. White voters are steadily becoming a smaller part of the electorate.
The changes are happening in red states and blue states alike. California is projected to become the third state with a majority-minority eligible voting population in 2016, joining Hawaii and New Mexico. Texas will join the group in 2016.
By 2040, more than half of voters will be non-white in six more states: Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Nevada. In total, 21 states will have majority-minority eligible voting populations, including deep red states like Oklahoma and Mississippi, the swing states of Florida and Colorado, and the Democratic strongholds of New York and Illinois.
On the surface, this looks like great news for Democrats. President Obama won 80 percent of black, Asian, and Hispanic voters in 2012 and the party has traditionally had an advantage over Republicans in minority communities. Republicans have been slow to act on the recommendations of their own autopsy.
But as The Washington Post's Aaron Blake points out, it's a fool's errand to predict that demographic changes will create a generation of Democratic dominance. Democrats have struggled to win midterm elections. Even though they're becoming a smaller part of the electorate, the party is losing white working-class and middle-class voters, which has kept Republicans competitive.
The authors of the study, Ruy Teixeira, Rob Griffin, and Frey write that demographics are not enough to predict a large-scale political realignment:
Since minorities are not monolithic in their policy or political preferences and because, in any case, those preferences may change over time, any assumption that majority-minority states will adopt a unified policy or political orientation would be unwise.
Some of the trends we have described here—especially growing diversity—appear to constitute a demographic thumb on the scales for Democrats in the short term, but Republicans could take that thumb off the scales in several ways. The strategies each party uses could yield a wide variety of outcomes, but over time, both parties will have to respond to the needs of a very different America. There is no predetermined partisan advantage, only a challenge that is common to both parties.
Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.