The Nevada Senate race shows that demographics are not destiny

There has been...

Posted: Apr 28, 2018 11:19 AM
Updated: Apr 28, 2018 11:19 AM

There has been a belief among some Democrats that the combination of non-white voters being overwhelmingly Democratic and the fact that they are becoming a larger portion of the electorate means that Democrats may be heading toward some sort of electoral glory.

This increase in diversity is a comfort to some opposed to President Donald Trump who believe that better times are around the corner.

Nowhere is this idea more challenged than in Nevada. Republican Sen. Dean Heller from Nevada is one of the most endangered incumbents this cycle.

The fact that Heller is even competitive, though, in Nevada is a major blow to the idea that the Republican Party is bound to be in trouble because of the shifting demographics in this country.

The only poll that used live interviews and called cell phones of the race (conducted for the Nevada Independent), has Heller up 40% to 39% over probable Democratic nominee Jacky Rosen. With Trump's low standing in Nevada and nationally, Heller still faces an uphill climb, but he's still in the race.

So what has happened in Nevada that has allowed Republicans to stay competitive?

It's actually fairly simple: the white population become much more Republican leaning. Although exit polls are from perfect, they illustrate this phenomenon quite well. In 1992, Bill Clinton defeated Republican George H.W. Bush by 1 point among white voters. This past presidential election Trump won among them by 18 percentage points. The same trend of whites moving towards the Republican Party has exhibited itself nationally.

Nevada's electoral landscape argues very much against the idea that Democrats should take much if any comfort in America's changing demographics. It's a state that has become incredibly more diverse in the past 25 years or so.

According to the Census's Current Population Survey, 81% of the state's citizen voting age population was white non-Hispanic in 1994. In 2016, it was only 63%. The network exit polls suggest a potentially even deeper decline. In 1992, 91% of the state's voters on Election Day were non-white Hispanic. That declined to only 62% in the 2016 exit polls, as the Asian, black and Latino shares of the vote went up in huge numbers.

The incredible climb of the minority population in Nevada was on full display in 2016. There were images of Latino voters standing on a long line in order to cast votes in early voting. Some analysts thought it was a sign that Trump was headed towards defeat. He, of course, won nationally. And while Trump did lose Nevada, it was an incredibly close race.

Indeed, the presidential result in 1992 and 2016 elections in the state were essentially the same, even as the state became more diverse. Democrat Bill Clinton won by 3 percentage points in 1992. Democrat Hillary Clinton won by 2 percentage points in 2016. (The national environment was also fairly similar in both years with Democrats winning small victories in the national popular vote.) It should be noted that independent Ross Perot received a significant share of the vote in 1992, but exit polls reveal Clinton still would have won the state without him running.

You can also see the lack of movement toward the Democrats in Nevada by examining the party registration statistics. Before the 1992 election, Democrats held a 6-point advantage in party registration. Before the 2016 election, the Democrats held a 7-point advantage in party registration.

Today, there's no indication that the state is becoming any more Democratic. Trump's approval rating in Nevada was actually 4 points higher than it was nationally over the course of 2017, according to Gallup. The Democratic lead is back down to a 6 points in party registration.

There's no reason to believe that this significant shift towards the Republican Party among white voters can't continue. Look at what happened in Texas: an even more diverse state with a growing Latino population. In the 1992 exit polls, whites made up 74% of voters and went for Bush by 21 percentage points. That allowed Bush to carry the state by 3 percentage points. This past presidential election Trump won the state by 9 percentage points, even as whites made up 57% of voters in the exit polls. Trump expanded upon Bush's margin because he won white voters by 43 percentage points (or more than double Bush's margin).

Nationally, Republicans have a lot more leeway to play with in future elections. Whites still make up 70% or greater of voters nationally (depending on what measure you use), even as the country is growing more diverse. If there is a candidate or party who makes an outright appeal to them, whites may react by giving them their votes. That could be enough to win, as Trump's election indicates.

In Nevada, the shift among white voters towards the Republican Party gives Heller some chance at reelection. Now, he has a better shot of losing than winning, but the fact that he has any shot at all should demonstrate to Democrats that more non-white voters entering the electorate is no guarantee of a massive shift in their chance of victory.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 161516

Reported Deaths: 3916
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10708104
Hinds10519205
Harrison7555113
Jackson6708128
Rankin6130112
Lee547697
Madison5202110
Forrest400187
Jones382189
Lauderdale3727147
Lafayette344057
Washington3367108
Lamar307550
Lowndes261167
Oktibbeha259962
Bolivar250185
Panola240253
Neshoba2311122
Marshall227151
Leflore213991
Monroe212278
Pontotoc211231
Lincoln200867
Sunflower195555
Warren184958
Tate184051
Union176826
Copiah172540
Pike168360
Pearl River163870
Yazoo162940
Scott162730
Itawamba162637
Alcorn160428
Coahoma157844
Prentiss156732
Simpson155153
Adams148352
Grenada147145
Leake143344
Holmes135761
Covington135541
Tippah132530
George131725
Winston131726
Hancock130942
Wayne124924
Attala124735
Marion124248
Tishomingo114844
Chickasaw112132
Newton112129
Tallahatchie100727
Clay97127
Clarke95653
Jasper88523
Stone83115
Calhoun81513
Walthall79930
Montgomery78826
Carroll76315
Smith75716
Lawrence75214
Yalobusha74428
Noxubee74217
Perry69326
Tunica63519
Greene63022
Jefferson Davis60217
Amite59315
Claiborne59316
Humphreys55719
Quitman5117
Benton50518
Kemper49318
Webster47914
Wilkinson41322
Jefferson38712
Franklin3726
Choctaw3697
Sharkey33117
Issaquena1234
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 260359

Reported Deaths: 3776
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson34716513
Mobile20452370
Madison14215153
Tuscaloosa13755173
Montgomery12731243
Shelby1110278
Baldwin9341137
Lee801566
Morgan722855
Etowah692170
Calhoun6809121
Marshall675058
Houston552739
DeKalb512940
Cullman480246
St. Clair460357
Limestone455046
Lauderdale443357
Elmore432567
Walker3861112
Talladega381157
Jackson361623
Colbert341546
Blount315845
Autauga289342
Franklin262634
Coffee257717
Dale244454
Dallas234932
Chilton233641
Covington232434
Russell23153
Escambia206932
Tallapoosa190291
Chambers187551
Clarke164120
Pike163814
Marion148236
Winston144725
Lawrence137336
Pickens129720
Geneva12818
Marengo126724
Bibb125238
Barbour121429
Butler120042
Randolph107022
Cherokee106724
Hale101432
Fayette99916
Clay94825
Washington93921
Henry8996
Monroe84611
Lowndes82629
Cleburne80714
Macon77122
Crenshaw73330
Conecuh72914
Lamar7258
Bullock70919
Perry6987
Wilcox65518
Sumter59522
Greene44518
Choctaw43519
Coosa3824
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