Virginia’s transformation from reliable red state to purple presidential battleground has coincided with demographic changes in the Old Dominion.
The University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service examines how these changes might affect the 2012 election in a new study, “Red State, Blue State: Demographic Change and Presidential Politics in Virginia.” The report analyzes demographic trends that are changing the composition of the population and the electorate in one of the country’s most closely-watched battleground states.
The complete, data-rich study authored by Dustin Cable and Michele Claibourn can be found here.
Some key findings in the report:
– Population growth among minorities has been significant, but has not produced corresponding increases in the proportion of eligible minority voters. Still, the non-Hispanic white share of the 2012 voting-eligible population is expected to drop by 2 percentage points from 2008.
– As much as one-third of Virginia’s 2012 vote could come from fast-growing Northern Virginia, a region President Barack Obama carried handily in 2008 when he became the first Democrat in 44 years to win Virginia’s electoral votes.
– Growth in the population of Virginians older than 60, a group that has a strong voter participation rate, indicates that older voters will have an increased impact on the outcome of the Virginia contest.
The study projects how demographic trends could affect the 2012 race and presents four simulated outcomes — two with Obama winning and two with Republican Mitt Romney winning. The authors even suggest some strategies for the campaigns to pursue.
“With growing and diverse core constituencies, Obama must mobilize them to turn out and vote, despite a struggling national economy,” Cable said in a news release. “Romney, however, is working from a solid foundation of supporters who can be counted on to show up to vote; namely, the elderly, white men and the affluent. But he can’t win with their support alone, he will need to make inroads among some of Virginia’s expanding populations, particularly Hispanics and the college-educated, Northern Virginia whites that Obama won in 2008.”
– Michael Sluss