The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Republicans are disproportionately worried about America’s changing demographic composition

Subway passengers enter the Roosevelt Avenue station, on Dec.18 in New York's Jackson Heights neighborhood. It is considered one of the most diverse communities in the United States, with more than 160 languages being spoken. (Timothy Fadek for The Washington Post)

The Census Bureau expects that within the next 25 years the United States will become majority-minority: non-Hispanic whites will make up less than 50 percent of the population.

That trend is mostly, but not entirely, a function of the country’s growing Hispanic population. Hispanic Americans tend to have more children than non-Hispanic white Americans, and as white America ages and older Americans die, the composition of the population will change. It’s already the case that more American babies are nonwhite than white.

That’s not the only trend that will be noticeable by 2050, though. As we noted back in 2015, people over age 65 will also make up more of the population.

In a new study asking Americans for their thoughts about where the country will be in 30 years, Pew Research Center asked specifically about those two changes: What will it mean to have a majority of the country that’s made up of racial and ethnic minorities, and what will it mean if the over-65 population is larger than the under 18 population?

Overall, Americans were a lot more comfortable with the former than the latter. That makes sense on at least one level. Having a population that skews older is a recipe for a population that’s growing smaller.

From a political perspective, though, it’s that question about the country’s increased diversity that’s interesting. Pew broke it out among other demographics, too. See if you can spot the outlier on concerns about the country’s increasing diversity.

(Pew grouped independents that lean to one party or the other in with the party groups overall. For the sake of brevity, we’ll just call these groups by their party names.)

Republicans were twice as likely to say that a more diversity would have a somewhat or very bad effect on the country than to say the effect would be, at least, somewhat good. No group — including whites — was as likely to have such a pessimistic outlook about the future.

It’s worth interjecting quickly to note that the Republican Party is itself less diverse than the country, according to past Pew research. The Democratic Party has been diversifying more rapidly. The GOP is actually less racially and ethnically diverse now than the Democratic Party was during the Clinton administration.

Back to Pew’s new data. It’s one thing to say that more diversity will have a negative effect on the country, but Pew also asked about specific ways in which that might happen. Would white Americans becoming less than half the population strengthen or weaken American customs or values, for example?

Overall, about as many people said “strengthen” as “weaken.” Among Republicans, four times as many people said “weaken.”

It brings to mind a recent PRRI poll conducted with The Atlantic. That survey asked respondents what it meant to be “truly American.” More than 6-in-10 Republicans said it meant being born in America. A quarter of Republicans said it meant being of Western European heritage — which is to say, white.

Overall, white Americans don’t have as skeptical a view of the future as Republicans alone do. About half of white Americans have an optimistic view of where the country is headed — lower than the views of black or Hispanic Americans, but not net negative to any significant degree.

But that group of white Americans includes a lot of Democrats and independents who have less skeptical views of American diversity than Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.

Among that group, only 16 percent see a more diverse country as having a somewhat positive effect, and only 13 percent think a more racially and ethnically diverse America will strengthen the country’s values.

It may not be a coincidence that Pew also found that 17 percent of the party is nonwhite.