California Demographic Tidal Wave Building

There’s suddenly been a lot of discussion of the Republican-held districts in California being the next big treasure trove of Democratic pickups in the House, surprising considering that California has a very bifurcated political geography and, on top of that, one of the most aggressively pro-incumbent gerrymanders. This started with a study published by the California Target Book showing precipitously declining GOP registrations, and continued with the DCCC‘s announcement that it would go big in 2010 in the eight districts where Obama won that are still occupied by House Republicans.

For instance, CA-26 has shown a drop in the GOP’s registration edge from 2002 to 2008 from 11% to 6%, CA-45 has seen a similar drop from 11% to 4%, and perhaps most out of left field, Buck McKeon’s CA-25 has dropped from 9% to 1%. In CA-03 (where Dan Lungren barely escaped in 2008), it dropped from 11% to 2%, and in CA-44 (where Ken Calvert escaped even more narrowly), it dropped from 16% to 7%.

What’s driving these changing registrations? Is it just ticked-off moderates realizing that something’s amiss with today’s GOP and changing teams? I’m sure there’s some of that happening, but that can’t by itself explain the size of those numbers. What’s driving this seems to be the changing demographics of who’s moving into and out of these districts. With the GOP’s declining fortunes among Latino and Asian voters (fueled by the GOP’s own self-defeating hardline extremism on the immigration issue), it can’t help that those are where most of the growth is happening in most of these districts.

While the magnitude of the demographic sea change in California isn’t as great as the non-white growth in Texas (which I wrote about prior to the 2008 election), it’s still impressive to see. This chart details the changes in each group from the 2000 census to the 2007 estimate, for each House district that’s held by the Republicans. (‘White’ means non-Hispanic white.)

District Rep. Kerry
CA-02 Herger 37 43 67,021 27,716 1,337 5,805 29,851
CA-03 Lungren 41 49 146,160 45,010 20,391 38,477 44,250
CA-04 McClintock 37 44 112,419 62,724 3,839 18,398 25,547
CA-19 Radanovich 38 46 101,949 20,874 9,436 8,596 66,772
CA-21 Nunes 34 42 108,725 6,981 1,405 11,334 88,698
CA-22 McCarthy 31 38 128,449 7,546 16,822 6,942 96,609
CA-24 Gallegly 43 51 44,034 – 9,600 – 1,413 7,750 49,124
CA-25 McKeon 40 50 143,246 – 26,236 25,300 15,935 119,934
CA-26 Dreier 44 51 51,417 – 14,604 – 1,491 26,625 47,452
CA-40 Royce 39 47 29,403 – 43,083 5,837 23,992 48,880
CA-41 Lewis 37 44 136,950 – 734 16,196 16,845 107,741
CA-42 G. Miller 37 45 47,896 – 4,641 – 1,397 15,719 46,613
CA-44 Calvert 40 50 198,959 35,183 12,632 19,101 126,396
CA-45 Bono Mack 43 52 225,020 50,882 13,581 18,181 135,086
CA-46 Rohrabacher 42 48 16,612 – 18,782 2,464 23,496 12,397
CA-48 Campbell 40 49 78,712 2,273 4,327 45,264 31,105
CA-49 Issa 36 45 132,037 32,752 2,981 20,122 76,245
CA-50 Bilbray 44 51 68,851 10,987 992 22,038 35,297
CA-52 Hunter 38 45 21,746 – 16,440 1,424 12,635 20,083

Bear in mind that not all of the Latino persons listed here are able to vote, either because they aren’t citizens or are too young, so this is more of a time-bomb in some districts, like the ones in the mostly-agricultural Central Valley. Case in point is CA-21, which (along with CA-45) is the only of these districts to have moved into an outright Latino plurality this decade, but is still one of the most Republican districts in the state.

On the other hand, some of the more suburban districts, like CA-44 and CA-45 in Riverside County, are poised to flip pretty soon (although these are two of the most hard-hit districts anywhere by the foreclosure crisis and the collapse of the construction industry, so it’ll require a lot of watching in these districts to see who stays and who goes). And even more surprisingly, CA-25 is zooming in our direction, at least demographically, making the drop to a 1% GOP registration edge maybe not that unexpected. (There’s only one district that seems to be bucking this overall trend, where most of the growth is white, and that’s CA-04… oddly enough, the district of all these where we came closest in 2008 to picking up the House seat, although the circumstances there were unusual.)

As in Texas, these changes aren’t going to happen overnight. But in the red parts of California, as with Texas, in the next decade, we’re either going to see a GOP that changes its message (and, well, everything else) to appeal to a more diverse America, or that starts hemmorhaging seats in its once-red strongholds.

63 thoughts on “California Demographic Tidal Wave Building”

  1. is bedrock Republican. It has not changed a lot in spite of some of the posts I have seen here.

    I live in CA-50.

    Short of a Tsunami or an Obama type candidate, Bilbray will be here in near future.

    I am not sure how CA-50 can be redrawn to oust him.

  2. Republican standards. He will not have a great deal of problem slightly modifying his stance to retain his seat.

    Something like a west coast Peter King.

    His district is less threatened by democratic enrollment.

    Anybody who thinks CA-50 can be redrawn, please let me know you will do it.

  3. is surrounded by CA-49 and CA-52 which are also Republican strongholds – particularly CA52.

    Actually, Cunningham’s departure was a huge improvement for us.

    I have seen several post about a Busby victory – a mare’s nest at the very best. Issa is wealthy, has many democratic supporters (he has gone to the mat for San Diego telcoms) and good looking (it matters even if you do not like it). It will take a huge effort to unseat him. Only then we can talk about unseating Bilbray.

  4. There's a problem with this analysis though. If growth in the Hispanic population and the Asian population were increasing Democratic vote share in these congressional districts, then there should be a relationship between these factors. As Hispanic population increases, so should Obama's increase over Kerry.

    Instead, there is no relationship. 

    I took Christunity's data above, and measured the growth in the Hispanic and Asian population against the increase in Obama's vote share over Kerry in each district.

    A one percent increase in Hispanic population in a district produces only a .1% increase in Obama over Kerry. 

    For Asians, the relationship goes the other way. A one percent increase in Asian growth in a district produces 1.2% less Obama increase over Kerry. 

    Implications:  Team Blue is improving in California's Republican districts, but there's not evidence that it is being driven by demographic changes.



  5. as to how much of Obama’s large California victory had to do with the fact that the election appeared over early on election night.

    MSNBC called Pennsylvania three hours before the polls closed in California…how many Republicans who didn’t vote left work at 5pm, saw Pennsylvania had gone to Obama and said “well fuck this” and didn’t bother to vote.

    My aunt and uncle in Hawaii, who are Republicans, did that.  

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