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Census Bureau: Red States Gaining at Expense of Blue

1:17 PM, Dec 28, 2007 • By BRIAN FAUGHNAN
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This week the Census Bureau released new data on population shifts from the 2000 census through today. The New York Times reports that while the subprime mortgage crisis has slowed the population shift away from states such as California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts, the trend for the decade is clear: the red states are gaining people and electoral votes while the blue states are losing them:

If nearly decade-long trends endure, Texas will gain as many as four Congressional seats and Florida's delegation will grow by two, while New York and Ohio will lose two seats each, said Andrew A. Beveridge of Queens College of the City University of New York.

"Seventy percent of the decade has passed," Dr. Beveridge said, "and there would have to be massive reversal of population trends for this not to happen."

There are several different projections available, based on the census data. A political data consulting firm known as Polidata is consistent with Beveridge, projecting a very challenging scenario for Democrats:

  • The biggest gainers are: Texas, up 4 to 36 seats*; Florida, up 2 to 27; and Arizona, up 2 to 10.
  • Other gainers are: North Carolina, up 1 to 14 (new); South Carolina, up 1 to 7(new); Georgia, up 1 to 14; Utah, up 1 to 4; Nevada, up 1 to 4; Oregon, up 1 to 6.
  • The losing states losing the most would be New York, down 2 to 27 and Ohio, down 2 to 16.
  • Other losers are: Massachusetts, down 1 to 9; New Jersey, down 1 to 12; Pennsylvania, down 1 to 18; Michigan, down 1 to 14; Illinois, down 1 to 18; Minnesota, down 1 to 7; Iowa, down 1 to 4; Missouri, down 1 to 8; Louisiana, down 1 to 6; and California, down 1 to 52(new).

This would represent a shift of eight seats from Kerry states to Bush states. A Democratic candidate who held all of Kerry's states would also need to win Florida, or a similar combination of smaller states, to gain the presidency.

A more hopeful outcome for Democrats comes in a projection from Election Data Services, which forecasts a smaller shift among the states:

Election Data Services found that Texas would gain two seats and Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Utah would gain one seat apiece if the reapportionment were performed using that Census data...

Balancing the ledger are the states that would lose seats. Seven states - Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania - would lose one seat apiece if the most recent Census data were used to perform a reapportionment today, according to Election Data Services.

This projection moves just 3 votes from the states won by Kerry to those won by Bush.

All appropriate caveats apply: states change character and become more or less competitive for parties over time; population trends can change quickly (as Katrina showed), etc. However, the 2010 census seems likely to make it easier for a Republican to win the presidency, as well as control of the House of Representatives, than it is today.