The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republicans have a major demographic problem. And it’s only going to get worse.

It's no secret that Republicans have a demographic problem when it comes to national elections.

In 2012, roughly nine in every ten people who voted for Mitt Romney were white -- even as the white vote continued its steady decline as a percentage of the overall electorate.   He got crushed among Hispanics and African American voters.

Writing at Commentary magazine on Monday, former Bush Administration official Pete Wehner concludes:

It’s an undeniable empirical truth that the GOP coalition is shrinking, and it’s shrinking in the aftermath of two fairly decisive defeats, with the latter coming against a president whose policies were judged by many Americans to have been failures. Which means the Republican task isn’t simply to nominate a candidate who can fire up the base; it is to find principled conservative leaders who can win over voters who are not now voting for the GOP at the presidential level.

The problem Wehner -- and many other senior strategists and some elected officials within the GOP -- identify is not only incredibly serious as it relates to the party's ability to win national election but is also almost certain to get worse unless something big changes. As in, the 2016 presidential election will be a tough one for Republicans to win given the demographic changes in the country but it won't be nearly as difficult for them as the 2024 or 2028 elections could be.

A new study from the Carsey Institute, a non-partisan public policy thinktank housed at the University of New Hampshire, makes that fact abundantly clear.  Using data from the 2012 Census, the report showcases just how fast the minority population is growing among young people -- those under aged 20 -- even as growth in that same age group among whites is basically stagnant. They write: "In 1990, 32 percent of the population younger than age 20 was minority, increasing to 39 percent in 2000. By July of 2012, 47 percent of the 82.5 million people  under age 20 in America were from minority populations."

What that massive growth among young minorities means is that those under 20 are now significantly more diverse than the rest of the population.  Minority youths make up 47 percent of the overall population under 20 while minorities comprise jusst 33 percent of 20-and-over population.

The math isn't complicated.  Winning 27 percent of the Hispanic vote and six percent of the African American vote -- as Romney did in 2012 -- makes it hard to win a majority of the overall vote when those groups represent 10 percent and 13 percent of the electorate, respectively. If Hispanics grow to 20 percent of the electorate by 2024 or 2028 and the Republican presidential nominee performs roughly equivalent to Romney's 2012 showing, it will be impossible -- or damn close to impossible -- for that GOP nominee to win a national majority.

And, it's not just the raw numbers that should concern Republicans. It's where the under 20 minority populations live that could prove politically problematic going forward. Check out this map courtesy of the Carsey Institute.

The concentration of young minority population in the Southwest and South means that states like Texas and Arizona as well as Georgia and South Carolina -- all of which have been conservative redoubts at the presidential level for decades could be in real jeopardy for the party in the medium and long term.

Republicans have a demographic problem. And it is going to get way, way worse unless they find a way to improve their numbers among Hispanics.