Politics Counts: House’s Divide Likely to Stick

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Washington’s stalemated “fiscal cliff” negotiations may be troubling and frustrating, but no one would say they are unexpected. That’s because the debate is not just about contrasting ideas about size of government or taxes, it is about different Americas discussing what’s next. The red/blue divide that has come to dominate our political discussions has become almost an abstraction at this point. We think about it as two teams of voters going to the polls to push for their side.

In reality, the supporters of the two parties increasingly come from very different places not only ideologically, but demographically–particularly at the congressional level. How different? Politics Counts broke down the current Democratic and Republican districts in the 112th U.S. House of Representatives demographically and found two Americas that in many ways look remarkably dissimilar.

The breakdown shows clear signs of the racial and ethnic shift going on in the country as well the demographic divide that became so apparent in last month’s presidential campaign. In the House, Republican districts are older on average and have few college graduates. Democratic districts have far more Hispanics than their Republican counterparts–21% vs. 12%, respectively. And Republican districts have many more white voters than Democratic ones–73% vs. 52%.

With those numbers, it’s tempting to view the House as a body that represents an old and new version of the country–the United States as it was and the United States as it will be. In fact, the 12% representation of Hispanics in the Republican House districts is very close to the 2000 Census number for the Hispanic population in the United States as a whole–12.5%. Meanwhile, the 21% of Hispanics in Democratic districts isn’t far from the Census projection for the year 2020–19.4%. The Census projection is 23% for 2030.

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