3 January 2007
A follow up on my earlier posting regarding demographics, social networks, and electoral politics. The census bureau just released numbers on population changes since 2000. Quoting from “The Fix” (http://blog.washingtonpost.com/thefix/), there is clearly a shift toward Republican-leaning states:
“The ten states with the highest percentage population growth between July 1, 2005 and July 1, 2006 -- Arizona, Nevada, Idaho, Georgia, Texas, Utah, North Carolina, Colorado, Florida and South Carolina -- were carried by President George W. Bush in 2004.
Regionally, too, the highest population growth is in areas that are Republican-red. The states comprising the South gained 1.5 million people over the past year, and the region now accounts for 36 percent of the national population. The West picked up more than 1 million people in the same period and now makes up 23 percent of the population; the Midwest gained 281,000 people and represents 22 percent of the nation's population total. The Northeast, which produced Democratic gains in the House and Senate in 2006, added just 62,000 people and is now the smallest region of the country with 18 percent of the population.”
Whether this benefits Republicans is an open question. Assuming most of these changes are due to migration (within the US, and from other countries to the US), as discussed in my earlier posting, it depends on how the migrants act politically—do they adapt to their new environs, or do their new environs adapt to them? In the short run it helps the Democrats if Democrats move to Republican leaning states and continue acting like Democrats. Four or five of those states are potentially competitive in 2008, and a 100,000 votes here or there could easily tilt a state into the Democratic column. This also means that Democratic states in 2008 have slightly (2-3) more electoral votes than they would deserve based on their population, and similarly, that Republicans areas are currently slightly under-represented in the House (lest you worry, the electoral system currently has a number of other biases in favor of Republicans that easily counterbalance these demographic shifts). The recalibration of the House and electoral college after the 2010 census will certain benefit the Republicans, but it is an illusory shift, largely reflecting a shuffling of people toward Republican states, not a shifting of voters toward the Republican party.
Posted by David Lazer at January 3, 2007 10:32 PM