When diversity comes up in the context of partisan politics, it is occasionally noted that contrary to general perceptions, the majority of Republicans are women or ethnic and racial minorities. This is true, although it obscures (usually intentionally) that the plurality of Republicans are white men. The fact that the party is about 83 percent white and that somewhere less than half of that group is women (less than half because women are more likely to identify as Democrats) gives you the above talking point.
The divide in the diversity of the two parties is remarkable. Data from Pew Research Center released last year gives us that above 83 percent figure — compared with 59 percent of Democrats who are white non-Hispanic. The Republican Party in 2017 was less diverse racially and ethnically than the Democratic Party was 20 years before.
That gap has become increasingly prominent in national politics. The 2018 midterm elections saw a huge surge in the number of women elected to Congress, most of them Democrats. The vast majority of the incoming Republican House caucus are white men; fewer than half of the incoming Democrats are.
The diversity on the left has been on stark display as Democrats have announced their intentions to seek their party’s nomination in the 2020 presidential election. The addition of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg to the field this week meant an openly gay man is joining a race that already included two white women, a Hispanic man and two nonwhite women.
It is, as of writing, by far the most diverse presidential field in U.S. history.
How we determine the members of a party’s primary field can be tricky. The figures above, for example, exclude some minor candidates who have thrown their hat into the Democratic ring without much of a shot at the prize. In past years it was similarly tricky, but we erred on the side of including those who had received votes in party primary contests.
So since 1964, this is what the diversity of each party’s presidential primary field looked like. (We’ve generally ignored minor challenges to sitting incumbents but included Ronald Reagan’s challenge to Gerald Ford in 1976 and Ted Kennedy’s challenge to Jimmy Carter four years later.)
Candidates who are not white men are identified by name. The icon closest to the center column indicates the eventual nominee.
Before 1964, of course, nearly every presidential candidate was a white man.
There’s an important caveat to the declaration that it’s the most diverse field as of this writing. There are a lot of white men who seem likely to join the Democratic primary contest, including, for example, former vice president Joe Biden. Even then, it seems likely that the density of candidates who aren’t white men will stand out.
Previously, the most diverse field of primary candidates was … the Republican field in 2016. Most of the party, after all, is made up of women and nonwhites.