A poll released Tuesday by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, or IGS, indicates that the past 30 years have seen a dramatic change in California’s racial and ethnic composition and a relative decline in the state’s Republican Party registration rate.
The study made use of state demographic data gathered since 1990, as well as IGS polling of 6,686 registered voters between Oct. 16 and Oct. 21.
“Nine of the 10 previous presidential elections prior to 1990, the state voted for the Republican nominee,” said Mark DiCamillo, study author and director of the Berkeley IGS Poll. “After 1990, the state has voted in every single election for the Democrats, including, we now believe, this year.”
The study reveals that although the state’s voter registration has grown by 8.5 million voters since 1990, the number of registered Republicans has stayed even at 5.3 million voters. If trends continue to move in this direction, the report concludes, California’s Republican Party is headed toward sharper decline.
There has also been a large increase in the percentage of Latino and Asian voters in the past 30 years, the study shows. Eric Schickler, co-director of IGS, suggests that the main driver for these demographic changes has been immigration.
As the Republican Party loses ground with white voters in California, and as the state becomes increasingly diverse, the once-dominant party is becoming increasingly right wing, Schickler said.
California Democrats are gaining voters in previously more Republican areas, Schickler added.
“The area that is red is kind of shrunk,” Schickler said. “Think about the U.S. House delegation. If you had these big pockets of conservative voters, you’d have a lot more Republicans in the House seats from the state. The state delegation is overwhelmingly Democratic.”
Schickler suggested, however, that although the Democratic Party now exerts near total control over the state legislature, this may not lead to the dominance of left-wing politics.
According to Schickler, many of California’s propositions, including Proposition 15, which would tax some commercial and industrial properties based on current market value rather than purchase price, and Prop. 16, which would legalize affirmative action in public institutions, are on track to fail.
“The Democratic Party itself now includes maybe more moderate members, as well as very progressive members,” Schickler said. “In other words, some people who might have been Republicans 30 years ago are now centrist Democrats, so a lot of the big fights that we’ll see are happening within the Democratic Party.”