A Modest Racial Realignment

Explaining the inexplicable.

Russell Contreras, the Justice and Race reporter at Axios (and before that on a similar beat at AP for many years) looks at a number of polling trends to analyze “Democrats’ big vulnerability: Why they’re losing Black, Hispanic voters.

The topline result will be familiar to OTB readers, as we’ve been discussing this for a few years now:

New data shows that Democrats’ longtime advantage with Black, Latino and Asian American voters has shrunk to its lowest point in more than 60 years — creating a massive vulnerability for President Biden and congressional Democrats.

Why it matters: One of the most loyal parts of the Democratic coalition is suddenly in danger. Black and Hispanic men could vote Republican in numbers not seen since President Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected in the 1950s.

The big picture: Latinos, the nation’s largest non-white group, still lean Democratic. But they’ve been shifting Republican over the last two decades, and are no longer the slam-dunk Democrats they were in 1960 when JFK ran for president.

By the numbers: Democrats’ advantage among Black, Latino and Asian voters is at its lowest since 1960, Financial Times columnist and chief data reporter John Burn-Murdoch found by analyzing a massive set of polling data.

  • A New York Times/Siena College poll out March 2 found that President Biden led former President Trump by just 56 points to 44 among non-white Americans.
  • That’s a group Biden won by almost 50 points when the two men last fought it out for the White House in 2020, Burn-Murdoch points out.

The intrigue: The drop-off comes even after Trump made several racist and bigoted comments about immigrants and people of color.

  • It also comes after some Democratic talking heads predicted for years that racial and ethnic demographic shifts would give Democrats a political majority for decades.

To be sure, the drop-off can be overstated: Blacks remain overwhelmingly Democratic and Hispanics are still more Democratic than Republican. Still, the trends are real and persist over a number of polls. The topline graphic Contreras uses is built on a quarter century of Gallup polling:

Last month’s Gallup takeaway on this matter (“Democrats Lose Ground With Black and Hispanic Adults“) noted:

  • The Democratic Party’s wide lead over Republicans in Black Americans’ party preferences has shrunk by nearly 20 points over the past three years.
  • Democrats’ leads among Hispanic adults and adults aged 18 to 29 have slid nearly as much, resulting in Democrats’ holding only a modest edge among both groups.
  • Whereas Democrats were at parity with Republicans among men as recently as 2009, and among non-college-educated adults as recently as 2019, they are now in the red with both groups.

We’ve been speculating for quite some time 1) whether this is somehow a false reading, owing to skewed polling (I highly doubt it) and 2) how this could possibly be the case, given the Trump/MAGA explicit appeal to White nationalists. Contreras offers this:

Between the lines: “Part of this is due to fading memories and weakening ties. Black Americans who lived through the civil rights era still support the party at very high levels, but younger generations are wavering,” Burn-Murdoch writes.

  • Many of America’s non-white voters have long held much more conservative views than their voting patterns would suggest, he said.

Reality check: Not all people of color have deep ties to the Civil Rights Movement. Many of their families arrived in the U.S. after the 1960s, said Republican consultant Mike Madrid, who’s based in Sacramento.

  • Madrid said the Latino population was small during the Civil Rights era. Today, few children of immigrants who came after the 1960s know who civil rights leaders Gus Garcia, Héctor P. García or Dolores Huerta are.
  • “Democrats cannot conceive that non-white voters are anything other than civil rights voters,” he said. “In their mind, all Latinos need to be taught to like farmworkers or the undocumented. Even though that’s less than 95% of us.”

“Hispanic” has always been an odd grouping for this purpose, as Mexicans fleeing poverty, Cubans fleeing Communism, and immigrants from Spain have little in common aside from linguistic heritage.* And it makes sense that, six decades after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Blacks would have moved beyond being united by old grievances. Indeed, that’s a very good thing, indeed, even though the vestiges of slavery and Jim Crow are still with us.

I’m not seeing crosstabs on the above-linked Gallup poll. I’d be interested in seeing the relationship between race and sex here. My strong guess is that the Republican shift among Blacks and Hispanics is predominantly among men.

There has clearly been something of a small-r realignment of our parties that accelerated under but predates Trump. The GOP started a populist shift with the rise of the Tea Party in the 2010 cycle and the progressive wing of the Democrats started taking back power from the New Democrat wing as early as Barack Obama’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2008 but certainly with the ascendency of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders over the next three or four years.

The upshot was that Democrats became the party of the college-educated while Republicans gained a larger share of the “working class.” While this was predominantly a resorting of White voters, we’ve seen some of this with Black and Hispanic voters as well.

*The Gallup polling at least has the advantage of separating non-Hispanic Whites and Blacks, creating three major racial categories rather than overlapping racial/ethnic ones.

FILED UNDER: Public Opinion Polls, Race and Politics, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Chip Daniels says:

    This should be compared with the gender split.

    The root of MAGA is more than racism, its misogyny and misogyny is prevalent in all races.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Chip Daniels: My guess is that gender is a lot of it but probably more LGBTQ issues than pure misogyny.

  3. Chip Daniels says:

    @James Joyner:
    Which itself becomes functionally indistinguishable from misogyny.

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Chip Daniels: There’s an overlap, to be sure.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    Insecure men (LGBTQ issues + misogyny); evangelicals, (the stupid and especially the old stupid); straight-up racists; and burn it all down incel creeps.

    I’d be more concerned but Black men and Hispanic men tend not to show up on election day.

  6. Jay L Gischer says:

    Far be it from me to deny either racism or misogyny, but I dislike it when either is used as a one-explanation-for-everything argument.

    In some sense, this sort of “one explanation” tends to silence people with other issues. For instance, is the anti-trans movement fully explained by misogyny? I don’t think so, though there are elements. Are TERFS to be understood as misogynistic, though?

    No, I think life is more complicated than any one answer.

    I do like the generational business as regards black people. I expect the anti-trans stuff has some traction among Black Americans, just like it does among white Americans.

    I recall seeing a news story about a person playing women’s college basketball and their plans to transition to male. The person was black, and they had a brief thing with their mother, who said, “I know what the Bible says, but that’s my child, and I’m behind her(sic)”.

    Which reminds me of how Black Americans are somewhat more religious than white Americans, and worries about the propriety of transition might well be more prevalent.

  7. JKB says:

    The upshot was that Democrats became the party of the college-educated while Republicans gained a larger share of the “working class.”

    College-credentialed. Colleges abandoned education a couple decades ago, at least.

    Education, properly a drawing forth, implies not so much the communication of knowledge as the discipline of the intellect, the establishment of the principles, and the regulation of the heart. [1913 Webster]

    Colleges actually work to inhibit students learning to discipline their intellect with speech codes and DEI cancel culture. And actively push students to react emotionally, without thought. Such as student chanting “from the river to the sea” but unable to name the river and many even the sea, much less what the phrase means.

    But while many will remain lost in the social justice religion of the universities, many do start to question their religion when they are exposed to alternative views in the real world.

    The divide is not the “working class” but between those who only know what is taught in school and those who use both mind and hand to do something useful for others.

    It is possible for the mind to indulge in false logic, to make the worse appear the better reason, without instant exposure. But for the hand to work falsely is to produce a misshapen thing—tool or machine —which in its construction gives the lie to its maker. Thus the hand that is false to truth, in the very act publishes the verdict of its own guilt, exposes itself to contempt and derision, convicts itself of unskillfulness or of dishonesty.
    —Charles H. Ham, Mind and Hand: manual training, the chief factor in education (1900) (1886)

    All in all, November looks like it could be a real inflection point and the lanyard class are unlikely to take the shift well.

  8. steve says:

    People vote on different issues. We are more tribal so there are more litmus tests to be a true Dem or Repub, but if you arent into tribal politics then a POC might prefer a specific policy or value of the GOP or they might reject a specific policy or value of the Dems. There are always single issue voters.


  9. JKB says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You should be concerned about Black voters being less enthusiastic for Biden in 2024 than that some might vote for Trump.

    Along with Democratic strategists in Georgia and Michigan, Anthony helped craft a recent memo that found Black voter turnout dropped by almost a quarter between the 2018 and 2022 midterms.

    “If the numbers look like they did nationally, Democrats don’t win,” says the memo’s co-author Jack DeLapp. “We can’t have a quarter of black voters in 2020 drop off in 2024.”

  10. Slugger says:

    Interesting analysis. I would like to see some comments from actual black and Spanish speaking heritage people. I’m a white (actually Jewish which is white adjacent), older, very liberal, diploma carrier as are many others who comment here. I do have a few black neighbors, but we don’t talk politics. My one friend who is a second generation Mexican is more liberal than I am; he doesn’t speak Spanish because his parents deliberately avoided it to prevent “confusion.”
    What do Black and Hispanic people think that whites believe about them? By now the Cubans are third generation immigrants, has their thinking changed? What are problems of Black/Hispanic people that the majority community ignores?

  11. Andy says:

    I was reading a different piece on this that has an interesting set of charts that looks at voting preferences ideology, and race over time.

    Essentially, the story is that white people are well-sorted into voting based on ideology. By contrast, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians have historically voted for Democrats – but especially Blacks – not based on ideology but on other factors. That is starting to change, as these demographics are beginning to shift their voting patterns to sort more on ideological lines. So historically, for example, black voters who were considered very conservative still voted for Democrats despite being ideologically conservative. That seems to be becoming less true over time as voters of all races become more ideological in their voting patterns.

    If that trend continues, it could be very bad news for Democrats. There are many more self-identified conservatives in the country than liberals/progressives, and Democrats have relied for decades on the votes of conservative Black, Latino, and Asian voters for majorities. Voters shifting their preferences to ideology means they will start voting for Republicans more often.

    A similar shift is underway in the white working class as Democrats have shifted toward educated voters and Republicans toward populism. Again, here, there are simply many more people without college degrees in America than there are with college degrees, and that’s not going to change anytime soon.

    Now, I don’t think this means Democrats are doomed, but it’s something they certainly can’t ignore this year.

    Over the long-term, despite pretty massive changes in our political parties over the last three decades, they are still largely fighting at the 50-yard line. Things don’t happen in a vacuum; shifts in one area can mean shifts in other areas or can be compensated for. I’ve heard many predictions in my lifetime that some trend or another will result in an enduring majority for one side or the other, and all those predictions have been wrong.

  12. Chip Daniels says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    I think its noteworthy that all the demographic groups which have a majority favoring the GOP are modified by the adjective “White” or “Male”.

    Its also noteworthy that the GOP doesn’t have any ideas or arguments to make that aren’t a form of “things were better back before”.

    It doesn’t matter if we are talking about Trump himself, or Ron DeSantis, or any Republican member of Congress or even a school board member, they really just have cultural grievances not arguments in favor of anything.

    So they can only attract those who for whatever reason are aggrieved and feel that some earlier era was better.

    And in America this almost always revolves around issues of race and gender roles.

    Like, no Republican is saying “Things were better back when union membership was 33% of the workforce!” or “We should return to the 50’s, when marginal tax rates were much higher!”

  13. Modulo Myself says:

    The Democrats aren’t the party of the Prosperity Gospel and Positive Thinking. And they aren’t the party of insane paralytic terror regarding a lack of conformity.

    It means the map is less liberal vs conservative than people who have access to the types of social capital. We’ve remade conservatism so that it has nothing to do with materialism or ambition and everything to do with fears and control issues and the worship of power. That’s why trans kids are such an issue for these people. Teenagers making autonomous choices equals terror for people who have done nothing but what they are told.

  14. Gustopher says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Which reminds me of how Black Americans are somewhat more religious than white Americans, and worries about the propriety of transition might well be more prevalent.

    The WaPo version of the story has a chart with the party identification of Black Americans along with the frequency of Church attendance — the ones who don’t go to church are far less likely to identify as Democrats, and are more likely to identify as Republicans.


    Alas, there is no good quote that puts the chart’s conclusions into writing, which is kind of annoying when trying to refer to it in text.

    But there are other understood factors, too, like that younger Black Americans are less likely to attend church, which — thanks to a concomitant decline in social pressure — correlates to political independence.

    Does that say anything?

  15. Gustopher says:

    I was googling to find my favorite article about Univision and/or Telemundo shifting coverage to be far more right wing friendly because of new owners, and Google gave me a lot of other articles, plus this:

    People also search for:

    I’m sorry why are we speaking Spanish debate
    Ilia Calderón skin condition
    Right-wing vs left-wing
    Is Josh Kushner a billionaire?

    I mentioned no Kushners, and did not want a new one added to my life. I searched for “Univision conservative takeover”

    So, I’m not going to find it. But rest vaguely assured that there was an article a few months ago (or years?) about how the Latino media was courting conservative money, and changing its programming, and the challenges this posed for democrats.

    Now I am wondering who Ilia Calderón is and whether their skin condition is spreading to other people and making them more conservative. Also, why are there more Kushners?

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Chip Daniels: No, but I have heard occasional Republicans say things like “Things were better before uppity union members started making wages that put them on economic par with me.”

  17. Matt says:

    Well I worked multiple minimum wage/adjacent jobs over a decade in Texas. In that time I met a whole slew of second or third generation Hispanics who were right wing (eventually becoming MAGA). The biggest issue for them was guns followed up by illegal immigration. Even those that immigrated here illegally were spouting fox news talking points. It’s like bro you’re only here because your parents immigrated illegally! WTF? They don’t care because of the standard GOP stance of “I’ve got mine fuck everyone else”. The only reason the GOP don’t pick up a a lot of black and hispanic voters is because of the blatant racism present. Once the GOP starts toning the racism back the Democratic party is screwed.

    You know what would win some of those people back? Real meaningful change that positively affects their lives like a national healthcare system that doesn’t bankrupt them. Hell legalizing marijuana on a federal level would win some of them. Maybe raise the minimum wage for the first time in 15 years? Maybe crack down on the monopolies/trusts that are pushing prices higher and higher? Maybe tax the rich people/companies?

  18. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Gustopher: That’s really interesting. Thanks.

  19. SenyorDave says:

    Hell legalizing marijuana on a federal level would win some of them. Maybe raise the minimum wage for the first time in 15 years? Maybe crack down on the monopolies/trusts that are pushing prices higher and higher? Maybe tax the rich people/companies?
    Maybe this would have a marginal effect around the ages, but the fact that Blacks and Hispanics would consider voting for someone who has a history of overt racism towards both of these groups makes me think that the ones who will vote for Trump are just a different type of maga.

  20. Alex K says:

    I’ve been seeing polls like this since 2018. Also since 2018, I’ve been seeing Democrats over-perform polls by significant margins while Republicans significantly underperform them. So it’s hard to know how much to consider this.

  21. Matt says:

    @SenyorDave: I’ve had some success with a few of these people. They’d start ranting about the latest conspiracy involving bill gates or the Rothschilds. I’d respond with “well if we taxed them properly they wouldn’t have the funds to do what you’re claiming”. Trying to debunk the conspiracy theory never sticks in their head. I’ll explain in excruciating detail why their conspiracy is fcking dumb and then the next day they’ll say it again to someone else when they think I’m out of earshot.

    So at the very least I might somewhat convince them that rich people should be less ridiculously rich.