An Odd Definition of “Low Demographic Diversity”

I will admit that the following paragraph from Matthew Dowd writing at the WSJ is not well constructed, so perhaps I am missing something, but he seems to have an odd definition of low demographic diversity (at least in terms of a likely Clinton electoral coalition):

2. On Election Day it is highly likely that the winning coalition of each major-party nominee would set a record low in demographic diversity. Mr. Trump could win this election with 43% of the total vote (due to a large percentage of votes going to third- and fourth-party candidates) by netting fewer votes among non-whites than any candidate has in a century. It is possible for him to win this election with only 20% support among all non-whites. Mrs. Clinton could win by netting fewer white votes than any candidate since Walter Mondale or George McGovern lost in landslides. She could win even if she gets only a third of the white vote. The larger issue is, as with the candidates’ low trust and likeability numbers, that these data points could figure in an election victory but do not set up a standard for governing a diverse country from coast to coast. Some large group of voters is going to feel left out no matter who wins.

Now, it is true that a Trump win would very likely be dominated by white males (and would overwhelmingly be white).  As such, if that were the outcome, it would indeed reflect a winner with very low demographic diversity.  However, if Clinton wins with only a third of the white vote (as per Dowd’s hypothetical) then that would mean that she won with a mix of white, black, Hispanic, and other voters, making it perhaps the most diverse winning coalition of all time.  Yes, if Clinton wins a lot of white male voters will feel left out, but that is one group feeling left out, while a Trump win would mean white women and blacks, Hispanics, and others of all genders would feel left out.

Maybe the error is in a sloppy headline to the paragraph, but it comes across as defining “demographic diversity” as requiring a huge chunk of white males, which is an odd definition.

Still, as this poll from May helps illustrate, Clinton does well with an array of voters, while Trump only dominates a few categories: Race, Gender Biggest Differentiators in Views of Clinton, Trump.

This is also illustrated in a piece from Nate Cohn from late July:  The One Demographic That Is Hurting Hillary Clinton:

The list of voting groups generally alienated by Donald J. Trump is long: Hispanics, women, the young, the college educated and more. How is it that he’s in such a close race with Hillary Clinton?

The answer lies with a group that still represented nearly half of all voters in 2012: white voters without a college degree, and particularly white men without a degree.

Mrs. Clinton is showing enormous weakness with this group. And these voters are supporting Mr. Trump in larger numbers than they supported Mitt Romney four years ago. It’s enough to keep the election close. It could even be enough for him to win.

Of course, apart from raising questions about Dowd’s use of terms, all of this continues to underscore how a major issue for American politics going forward is going to be addressing the way in which demographic shifts are affecting political behavior (as well as creating a myriad of challenged for both parties).

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Gromitt Gunn says:

    This argument seems designed to set the stage for suggesting later on that an insufficient amount of white male support undermines the validity of what seems likely to be an outsized win from an Electoral College perspective.

  2. Gustopher says:

    The only votes that matter are white male votes, don’t you know? And by pointing this out using words like “demographic diversity” he is hoisting liberals by their own petard.

  3. bill says:

    “white men without a degree”- didn’t they used to be called “union-workers” ? i mean back when labor unions actually performed “labor” vs. the bulk now being teachers/city/state/fed workers.

    @Gustopher: so women(who outnumber men….duh) who vote for hillary solely because she’s a “woman” are what? and blacks who vote 90+% for whatever democrat runs are?
    hispanics are white more often than not- how anyone finds someone willing to be known as hispanic has gotta be tough- unless there’s some financial benefit attached to it.

    @Gromitt Gunn: i think someone could get nearly 70% of the popular vote and still lose in the ec- that would be something, if it ever happened!

  4. @bill:

    “white men without a degree”- didn’t they used to be called “union-workers” ? i mean back when labor unions actually performed “labor”

    This is an excellent example of the assumption of whiteness as the norm. Because union workers could also be black or hispanic, for example. So, in fact, the differentiation here of “white men without a degree” is, fact, about whites men specifically. (And not necessarily urban laborers).

    It is also the case that union labor, as a voting block, is not what it used be (nor is it what it used to be in the overall economy).

  5. @bill:

    hispanics are white more often than not- how anyone finds someone willing to be known as hispanic has gotta be tough- unless there’s some financial benefit attached to it.

    This is also pretty revelatory–the assumption that racial or ethnic identity is about money (and that clearly the wrong kinds of people benefit from social spending).

  6. Dave Schuler says:

    I think he’s claiming that Democrat turnout will be almost entirely black and Republican turnout will be almost entirely white. I don’t know that will be the case but that appears to be what he’s claiming.

  7. J-Dub says:

    Narrow it down further to straight, poorly-educated white men. A group that used to be able to get by without trying very hard. How they have to work as hard as everyone else and they aren’t happy about it.

    I guess, according to the writer, that “everybody else” is considered a single demographic group.

  8. @Dave Schuler: If that were the case, Trump would win in a landslide, yes?