How The Racial Shift in Key Battleground States Could Alter the 2016 Election

The 2016 election is already in full swing with eight candidates having officially declared their candidacy (two for the Democratic nomination, six for the Republican nomination). Polling of these candidates among potential constituencies has already begun as well, to wildly different projections. With 18 months still to go, a lot is sure to change.

However, one factor is sure to influence the election, and that is the changing demographics in the American electorate. Much has been made of the Republican Party’s inability to appeal to Latino voters in 2012, which is the most rapidly growing minority group in the United States. A new analysis by Pew, however, reveals just how much the American voter landscape has changed in the twenty-first century.

In 78 counties across the United States, the white majority/no-white minorities have flipped. Due to growing minority populations, whites are now the minority. These counties are found primarily in states in the southern part of the country, but range from California to Kansas to North Carolina.

How this might influence elections is still undetermined. In congressional elections, this shift has the potential to have the greatest impact. However, due to gerrymandering, which often creates non-competitive, oddly-shaped congressional districts, these counties do not perfectly align with electoral boundaries.

For the presidential election, this could have huge implications in a few states.

First there is in Florida, a state that is always hotly contested. Four counties in Florida have flipped to non-white since 2000, which could help Democrats in their quest for the Sunshine State. However, with two possible candidates on the Republican side coming from Florida — Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio — they might have home court advantage in the state with a strong base of support.

Virginia is another important state. With 13 electoral votes up for grabs, the state is certainly purple. Although the state voted for Barack Obama in both 2008 and 2012, it largely voted for Republicans in prior elections. However, six counties have flipped since 2000, perhaps indicated a more Democratic-leaning state than before.

Lastly, New Jersey also appears on this list. Four counties switched in the Garden State. Although citizens haven’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since 1988, they have voted in various Republican governors, including Chris Christie, who is considering a run himself. New Jersey, therefore, remains in play when considering the demographic shifts, especially as Christie contemplates his own run.

Sixteen additional states saw changes in minority trends in counties within their borders. There is still plenty of uncertainty regarding the 2016 elections, including the effect these changes will have.