Posted on September 14, 2016

Hillary Clinton Is Getting Surprisingly Little Extra Lift from Blacks and Hispanics

Nate Cohn, New York Times, September 14, 2016

The conventional wisdom holds that sweeping demographic shifts propelled Barack Obama to the presidency.

So here’s a simple question: Why haven’t these demographics swept Hillary Clinton to a big polling lead and a smooth glide to victory? Donald J. Trump, after all, has alienated just about every growing demographic group and every category that helped push Mr. Obama to victory.


The traditional demographic story is fairly simple: Between 2000 and 2012, the white, non-Hispanic share of voters plummeted. According to the census, white, non-Hispanic voters represented just 74 percent of the electorate in 2012–down from 81 percent in 2000.

The shift was, indeed, driven by demographic change. The white, non-Hispanic share of adult citizens–roughly the pool of people eligible to vote–fell by roughly the same amount over the same period.

The white, non-Hispanic share of adult citizens who are eligible voters has continued to fall–probably down to around 68 percent, although the census information is not yet up to date.


In fact, John Kerry would have probably lost the 2004 election even if eligible voters had been just as diverse as they were in 2012.

Conversely, Mr. Obama would have probably won his two elections even if the last decade of demographic shifts had never happened.


Demographic trends did help Democrat nominees, a little. But they were helped just as much by favorable turnout trends–the huge surge in black turnout, in particular–and by favorable trends in support. Mr. Obama did much better than Mr. Kerry among Hispanic voters, among black voters and even among white voters outside the South and Appalachia.

On balance, these other factors–support and turnout–not only outweighed demographic shifts as drivers of growing Democratic strength, but they also made demographic shifts more powerful. {snip}


Yes, demographic shifts will continue to slowly help Democrats. But Mrs. Clinton isn’t getting the same leaps in support and turnout among nonwhite voters that let Mr. Obama grow the Democratic coalition as much as he did.

On average, Mrs. Clinton leads among Hispanic voters by almost the exact same amount that Mr. Obama did in pre-election polls in 2012.


Another reason Mrs. Clinton’s relative weakness among nonwhite voters has been overlooked is that analysts and journalists have tended to focus on how Mr. Trump is doing worse than Mr. Romney (Mr. Trump has only 15 percent support among Hispanics compared with Mr. Romney’s 27 percent in the exit polls). But they leave out that Mrs. Clinton, by the same measure, is doing worse than Mr. Obama to the same extent.


Mrs. Clinton isn’t doing better than Mr. Obama among black voters, either. While several polls have suggested that Mr. Trump is winning a vanishingly small share of that vote, the polls showed something similar in 2012. Then, pre-election polls showed Mr. Obama beating Mr. Romney by an even greater margin than the polls currently show Mrs. Clinton beating Mr. Trump. Mr. Obama held a 93-3 percent lead among likely black voters (92 to 3 among registered voters).

Most of the analysis that shows Mrs. Clinton faring better depends on a comparison with the exit polls, which showed Mr. Romney winning 6 percent of the black vote.

My view is that the pre-election polls were probably right, and that Mr. Obama won black voters by an even greater margin than the exit polls found. {snip}


The bottom line is that Mrs. Clinton is unlikely to benefit from the same jump in black turnout and support that Mr. Obama had. Similarly, she is unlikely to repeat the same jump in support from Hispanic voters. It is possible she won’t see any gains among these groups at all.