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California constitutes one of the most diverse states in the United States. Here is how the Census estimates its population composition:

California's   Ethnic Composition
Asian 12.7%
Black 6.6%
Hispanic 37.0%
Mixed 2.6%
Native   American 1.2%
Pacific   Islander 0.4%
White 41.7%

(Note that the numbers do not add up to 100, due to the way the Census tracks ethnicity.)

The people who actually vote in California, however, do not reflect this composition.

More below.

California's electorate in the 2008 presidential election is quite different from its actual ethnic composition:

2008   Electorate: Exit Polls
Asian 6%
Black 10%
Hispanic 18%
Other 3%
White 63%

These numbers were taken from exit polls - and one should be warned that exit polls are very, very inaccurate. The numbers above should not be taken for the truth, but rather as a rough approximation of it.

Nevertheless, one can take something out of the exit polls: blacks and whites punched far above their demographic weight, while Asians and Hispanics punched far below theirs. This pattern isn't so much a racial one as much as an immigrant versus non-immigrant one.

Since blacks and whites are mainly non-immigrant communities, they vote more often than immigrant communities. Blacks and whites thus are overrepresented in the electorate. There was little racial divide between black and white turn-out, which is quite remarkable, given the lower socioeconomic status of blacks. All in all the percentage of California's 2008 electorate was about 50% more black and white than California's overall population.

Hispanics are the ones hurt most by this. The difference between the Hispanic portion of the electorate and the Hispanic portion of the overall population is quite striking: the electorate is just half as Hispanic as the population. Most of this is attributable to the legal status of many Hispanic immigrants, the relative youth of the Hispanic population, the lower socioeconomic status of Hispanics, and the immigrant-heavy nature Hispanic community (this is different from the first factor in that immigrants are inherently less likely to vote even if they are citizens).

It is not Hispanics, however, who are least likely to vote: it is Asians. There are several similarities and differences between the two groups. Unlike Hispanics, the Asian population is not skewed downwards, and Asians generally have a high socioeconomic status. On the other hand, Asians are much more of an immigrant community than Hispanics: a remarkable four out of five adult Asians in California constituted immigrants, according to a 2002 study. Only 59% of adult Asians were citizens (who can vote), according to the study.

The low voting rates of Hispanics and Asians naturally reduce their political power. Hispanics, at around one-fifth of the California electorate, are influential - but imagine how much more influential the Hispanic vote would be if they voted their numbers. As for Asians, their low turn-out makes their community almost a non-factor in California politics.

This will probably change, of course. A century ago one could have written the exact same words about another immigrant-heavy group that did not vote: Irish-Americans.


Originally posted to Inoljt on Sun Dec 19, 2010 at 02:56 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (5+ / 0-)

    by Inoljt on Sun Dec 19, 2010 at 02:56:42 PM PST

  •  I am having trouble formatting the table (0+ / 0-)

    How do I get rid of the empty blank spaces before them?

    The html currently looks like this:

    td>California's   Ethnic Composition/td>
    td height="20">Asian/td>
    td align="right">12.7%/td>
    td height="20">Black/td>
    td align="right">6.6%/td>
    td height="20">Hispanic/td>
    td align="right">37.0%/td>
    td height="20">Mixed/td>
    td align="right">2.6%/td>
    td height="20">Native   American/td>
    td align="right">1.2%/td>
    td height="20">Pacific   Islander/td>
    td align="right">0.4%/td>
    td height="20">White/td>
    td align="right">41.7%/td>

    Of course, we have completed opening and closing signs.

    by Inoljt on Sun Dec 19, 2010 at 03:00:26 PM PST

  •  Careful interpreting Hispanic numbers (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, DaleA, BusyinCA

    Census numbers include illegal immigrants, who are not allowed to vote.

    Census numbers also include legal immigrants (like me) who have not bothered to pay $700 to become a US Citizen. The only hispanic group that is allowed to vote is the US Citizen group. And a majority of Hispanics are non-US citizens. It is natural that Hispanics turnout will always be much smaller than the census' number.

  •  sidebar: GOP plans for CA (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    My view is DC and the regulators are there to serve the banks. * New Chairman Finance Committee, Rep. Bachus R-AL

    by anyname on Sun Dec 19, 2010 at 04:46:05 PM PST

  •  Voter Registration Anecdotes (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Odysseus, greengemini, Alec82, BusyinCA

    I registered voters at the mall in Panorama City, a mainly Hispanic and Asian part of LA. Found that most Black and White people were already registered. Asians of all ages were eager to vote and signed up. One Asian man was very upset that the registration deadline was Oct 18 and his naturalization was on Oct 23. Among Hispanics, the only group interested seemed to be young women. We did sign up quite a few of them. Even when their male companions weren't interested.

    The Asian turnout looks low to me. Perhaps it  should be checked against turnout in heavily Asian zip codes? VBM is very popular among younger voters, which would include lots of Hispanics and Asians. Do the exit polls take into account vote by mail? Here in the SFV, it seemed that 50% of voters were using VBM.

    •  My personal anecdote re Hispanic voting (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Of the eleven Hispanic men I know at work, only two voted or cared to vote in this Novembers election. One is a recent citizen who comes to me for advice about politics and the other is a co-worker third gen citizen (we are on the same page also). The ones who don't vote are all in their early 20's and not at all politically aware. I try to get them interested, but I fear they might watch Fox News before/after the Fox sports broadcasts, and they are also not up on current events (all 2nd or 3rd gen BTW). How do we engage those that are so indifferent? I don't have any answers, but education would seem to be a good place to start. Getting the message out to them that elections have consequences would also be good IMHO.

  •  why just use 2008 exit polls (0+ / 0-)

    we just had an election a month or so ago, wouldn't those numbers be more pertinent for discussing the future?

    surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

    by wu ming on Mon Dec 20, 2010 at 01:10:12 AM PST

    •  to answer my own question: (0+ / 0-)

      the 2010 exit poll #s (which are themselves highly problematic in an election with 48% vote-by-mail) break down as follows (2008 #s in parentheses):

      4% asian (6%)
      9% black (10%)
      22% latino (18%)
      3% other (3%)
      62% white (63%)

      so latinos picked up 4%, asians dropped 2%, and blacks and whites both dropped 1%.

      surf putah, your friendly neighborhood central valley samizdat

      by wu ming on Mon Dec 20, 2010 at 01:17:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Hmm...I guess I hadn't thought about that. (0+ / 0-)

        The first thing that came into my mind was just the 2008 presidential election.

        But looking from that it generally seems that the 2010 exit polls tell the same story: Latino and Asian turn-out is heavily below their overall population share, black and white turn-out is above.

        Finally, I wouldn't trust the "latinos picked up 4%, asians dropped 2%, and blacks and whites both dropped 1%" given that exit polls are so inaccurate.

        by Inoljt on Tue Dec 21, 2010 at 11:01:39 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

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