By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
For all that has been said about the growing diversity of the American electorate, this much is still true: White people elect presidents.
So, in our final look at the demographic analysis of the 2008 presidential election presented by experts from the Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, we'll look at the voting of the white voters (remember Joe the Plumber?) who were supposed to bail John McCain out last fall, and didn't.
The minority vote in the United States has grown from 15 percent in 1988 to 26 percent in 2008, and will continue to grow as America becomes a minority majority country by mid-century, according to ace political analyst Ruy Teixeira.
But that still means that, for now, 3 out of every 4 voters is white. And Democratic problems with white voters in critical states like Ohio and Pennsylvania were supposed to keep Republicans competitive last year. After all, George W. Bush beat John Kerry by 23 points among white working-class voters in 2004.
It didn't happen.
Reason No. 1: The country's first African-American presidential nominee polled five points better among white working-class voters than Kerry and seven points better among white college graduates. It was enough, when combined with Barack Obama's strength with black, Latino, and other minority voters, to give the Democrats victory.
Reason No. 2: The number of Republican-leaning, white working-class voters is shrinking, comparatively, when compared to Democratic-leaning minority voters and white college graduates and professionals.
Obama did worse than Kerry, percentage-wise, among white working-class voters in places like southern Ohio and western Pennsylvania, but "there are just less of them," says Teixeira. We are seeing "a rapid decline in the number of white working-class votes."
In Pennsylvania, for example, Obama lost the white working class by 15 percent in 2008. But in the last 20 years, the share of the electorate represented by these voters has shrunk by 25 points, reducing their clout.
Reason No. 3: Young, white working-class voters don't have the same beliefs as their parents. And this might be the really bad news for Republicans.
Stunningly, Obama did 40 points better than Kerry among younger (ages 25 to 29) white working-class voters across America, says Teixeira. The Democrats carried these voters by 12 points in 2008, after losing them by 28 points in 2004.