The last election was a historic one. The 2018 midterm elections set several records with perhaps the most diverse candidate pool ever, including the youngest woman elected to Congress, the first Native American Congresswomen, and the first female, Muslim Congressional representatives. Although the 2020 election is still a year away, it could be just as suspenseful as the last--but for different reasons.
While the main question seems to be who will be named the Democratic nominee, one of the biggest curve balls in the upcoming election may not be the candidates at all but the voters. There have been a lot of changes in the U.S. since 2016 (and even 2018), one of which is the shifting demographics of the electorate. Let’s take a look at the big changes and what they mean for the next election.
At the largest percentage ever, non-white voters will account for one third of the voting population. According to Pew Research Center, Hispanics specifically will be the largest racial/ethnic minority in the U.S., accounting for 32 million or 13% of the voting population (up from 9% in 2008). As such, the rise in Hispanic voters in the U.S. could be a big deciding factor in an unpredictable election.
Although Baby Boomers themselves are on the decline as far as how much of the electorate they make up, increased life expectancy means that 28% of voters will be 65 and over when the next election rolls around, according to Pew Research Center. With the rise in early and absentee voters during the last midterm election, most of whom were ages 50 and older, the Baby Boomer turnout could significantly impact the outcome of the election.
According to the same analysis by Pew Research Center, more Gen Zers than ever before will be able to vote on Election Day, taking up a projected 10% of the electorate. Although young voters tend to be unreliable, meaning they have the lowest rates of turnout, young voter turnout has been increasing in past years, and this group will be more diverse and educated than the generations before them.
Much like the Baby Boomers, the Millennial voter population has peaked, no longer growing at the rate of the overall voting population. Although Millennial voters are beginning to be overtaken by their younger counterparts, Millennials and Gen Zers in combination will make up 37% of the voting population.
Four years is a long time to move on and a lot of people have--moved, that is. According to U.S. Census Bureau data, 2.4% of voters moved across state lines in 2017. Although this number may seem small, by the time the 2020 election rolls around, many young people will have moved across state lines, possibly changing the political leanings and party makeups of several states.
At this point in the year, it’s hard to predict what will happen in 2020. The one thing we do know is that experts are predicting record turnout. Although we’re looking at a very different electorate than we were three years ago, it’s important to remember that the elections usually aren’t determined by the eligible voting population as a whole but by who shows up.