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How American Demographics Have Changed Since The 2012 Election


If you were to take a class photo of America today, here's what you'd see - a picture that's becoming browner and younger. The population growth among whites is stagnating, and our nation has more people of color than at any other point in our history. Meanwhile, millennials now outnumber baby boomers and are poised to become the dominant political generation for the next 35 years.

These changes are already influencing this election. NPR's Asma Khalid covers the intersection of politics and demographics - joins me now in the studio. Hey there, Asma.


CORNISH: So let's first talk about white voters. People have discussed them as being the base of Donald Trump's support and an important part of Hillary Clinton's coalition of voters. What else is their impact in this election?

KHALID: So if we look at the last election, about 72 percent of all voters were white. And within that umbrella, there's a lot of differences, you know, among white folks who have a college degree, white folks who don't, white folks who may live in sort of northern, more liberal parts of the country versus more conservative parts.

But this election cycle, we're anticipating that about only 70 percent of the electorate will be white, and that will be the lowest share of white voters that we've seen. And what makes I think this group very interesting is, you know, Donald Trump has made his candidacy geared towards the assumption that he can boost overall turnout among white, blue-collar voters.

And that could be key if he's able to do that in states like Iowa, Ohio, even potentially Michigan. And he's also predicated his candidacy on the idea that he'll be able to win those voters by even larger margins than Mitt Romney did four years ago.

CORNISH: There's another divide that you mentioned, which is education - people with college degrees versus people without. Talk about the impact there of this election.

KHALID: So we went back and looked at exit polls for decades and saw that white, college-educated voters have consistently voted for the Republican presidential candidate. And it seems to be - and if the polls are accurate - that Hillary Clinton could potentially win this group of voters.

And what's really fascinating to me about that is that it just - it would be a historic first if she's able to do that. And that could be particularly key in a state like Colorado 'cause Colorado actually has the highest percentage of white, college-educated voters in the country. It would also be key in a state like Virginia and North Carolina.

CORNISH: I want to talk a little bit more, though, about a state like, say, Florida - right? - where we talk a lot about the Latino vote. We talk a lot about minority voters. What else have you already learned about these voters that you're going to be watching for tonight?

KHALID: So the big question around Latino voters is turnout and how many of them will show up on Election Day or even, you know, participate at - in early voting. In some of the early voting we saw in Florida, a number of Hispanics turned out, much more than we saw in 2012.

And that's key because if we look at the 2012 election, a majority of eligible Hispanics did not vote for president. And so historically, Latino turnout has been below 50 percent. If we see an increased participation in the Latino community, that could be really key to this election, particularly in a state like Florida or Nevada, even Colorado.

CORNISH: Finally I want to ask about millennials, this younger generation. We think of them as being connected to Barack Obama after the last two elections. But what are we learning about them this time around?

KHALID: So during the primary season, we saw that young voters flocked to Senator Bernie Sanders' campaign. And I would say in the general election, there have been a lot of questions about, would millennials support Hillary Clinton? I would say the answer to that question overwhelmingly based on all the polls we've seen is that Hillary Clinton certainly has the support of a plurality of millennials. The question is how big her margin of victory will be, and that's what I'll be paying attention to tonight.

I've begun to hear from young voters of all stripes, even conservative Republican millennials who've told me that they worry that Donald Trump has alienated their generation, that regardless of how they may feel about conservative economic principles, they do not agree with his ideas around, you know, say, immigration, some of his rhetoric about Muslims or Mexicans. And they worry that potentially he has alienated their generation. And as they grow older, they'll continue to potentially vote more and more Democratic.

KHALID: That's NPR's Asma Khalid. Thanks so much.

KHALID: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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