What Is The States of Change Project?

Ronald Brownstein
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Ronald Brownstein
Feb. 3, 2015, 7:56 p.m.

This series on the key states for the 2016 pres­id­en­tial elec­tion is based on his­tor­ic­al data and fu­ture pro­jec­tions provided to Next Amer­ica by States of Change: Demo­graph­ics and Demo­cracy. The States of Change pro­ject is a col­lab­or­a­tion sup­por­ted by the Hew­lett Found­a­tion that brings to­geth­er the Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress, the Amer­ic­an En­ter­prise In­sti­tute, and demo­graph­er Wil­li­am Frey of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion. The pro­ject is dir­ec­ted by Ruy Teixeira of the Cen­ter for Amer­ic­an Pro­gress and Karlyn Bow­man of the Amer­ic­an En­ter­prise in­sti­tute.

In a state­ment to Next Amer­ica, the States of Change Pro­ject ex­plained its pro­gram as fol­lows:

The goals of the pro­ject are: (1) to doc­u­ment and ana­lyze the chal­lenges to demo­cracy posed by the rap­id demo­graph­ic evol­u­tion of the United States, from the 1970’s to the year 2060; and (2) to pro­mote a wide-ran­ging and bi­par­tis­an dis­cus­sion of Amer­ica’s demo­graph­ic fu­ture and what it por­tends for the polit­ic­al parties and the policy chal­lenges they (and the coun­try) face.

Res­ults from the first year of the pro­ject in­clude:

“¢ Trend ana­lys­is of 40 years of demo­graph­ic change in United States, 1974-2014, na­tion­ally and in every state, par­tic­u­larly as it has af­fected the pool of eli­gible voters

“¢ Pro­jec­tions of the ra­cial com­pos­i­tion of every state to the year 2060, both over­all and by eli­gible voters

These find­ings are be­ing re­leased in sev­er­al ways, first through this col­lab­or­a­tion with Na­tion­al Journ­al/Next Amer­ica. There will also be a de­tailed re­port dis­cuss­ing our na­tion­al and state res­ults over the en­tire 1974-2060 peri­od and an in­ter­act­ive web fea­ture that will al­low users to trace the demo­graph­ic evol­u­tion of any state’s elect­or­ate by a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter­ist­ics. The re­port and in­ter­act­ive fea­ture will be re­leased on or around Feb­ru­ary 24, when a pub­lic con­fer­ence will be held at AEI to present and dis­cuss the pro­ject’s find­ings.

All the his­tor­ic­al data used in these are taken from the Census Bur­eau’s monthly Cur­rent Pop­u­la­tion Sur­vey. States of Change ana­lyzed the data for each rel­ev­ant year from the Voter Sup­ple­ment of the Novem­ber sur­vey. The stor­ies ex­am­ine two sets of res­ults. The first is eli­gible voters-that is, the share of the state pop­u­la­tion that is over 18 and a cit­izen in each demo­graph­ic cat­egory. The second is ac­tu­al voters, the share of the state pop­u­la­tion in each demo­graph­ic cat­egory that ac­tu­ally voted, ac­cord­ing to the Census sur­vey.

In ana­lyz­ing the his­tor­ic res­ults, the States of Change pro­ject sub­jec­ted the data to a stat­ist­ic­al pro­cess known as LOWESS. The pro­ject ex­plains that widely used stat­ist­ic­al pro­cess this way:

The es­tim­ates presen­ted here for eli­gible pop­u­la­tions were pro­duced us­ing LOWESS, a stat­ist­ic­al pro­ced­ure that ‘smooths’ our CPS and pro­jec­tion data in or­der to gen­er­ate more stable and ac­cur­ate res­ults. As with all sur­veys, res­ults from the CPS are sub­ject to ran­dom sampling er­ror and any par­tic­u­lar year’s es­tim­ates are likely to de­vi­ate from the true value. ‘Smooth­ing’ over these data points for char­ac­ter­ist­ics whose rates of change should be fairly con­sist­ent across elec­tions ul­ti­mately cre­ates bet­ter es­tim­ates for any par­tic­u­lar year.

The CPS sur­vey gen­er­ally paints a sim­il­ar pic­ture of the elect­or­ate each year as the exit polls con­duc­ted on Elec­tion Day for a con­sor­ti­um of me­dia or­gan­iz­a­tions. The CPS re­cently has found a slightly high­er white share of the vote than exit polls, though both have fol­lowed a sim­il­ar track of a de­clin­ing per­cent­age for whites. While the two data sources con­verged on the white share of the na­tion­al vote in 1996 (83 per­cent) and 2000 (81 per­cent), in each of the past three pres­id­en­tial elec­tions the Census has found the white share two per­cent­age points high­er than the exit polls did; in 2012, the Census put whites at 74 per­cent of the na­tion­al vote, com­pared to 72 per­cent for the exit.

One dif­fer­ence between the two data sets re­mains lar­ger. Com­pared to the CPS res­ults, the exit polls con­sist­ently find that col­lege-edu­cated voters rep­res­ent a great­er share of the elect­or­ate. For in­stance, in Ohio in 2008, the exit poll found that col­lege-edu­cated whites equaled 33 per­cent of the elect­or­ate; the CPS put their share at 26 per­cent. In Vir­gin­ia, that year the exit poll found that col­lege-edu­cated whites equaled 40 per­cent of voters; the CPS put their share at 33 per­cent.

The States of Change pro­ject has chosen to use the CPS data, so that is what Next Amer­ica is us­ing in these re­ports on the pro­ject’s work. (The Census data is the only avail­able source on the eli­gible voter pop­u­la­tion; the exit polls only pro­duce an as­sess­ment of the ac­tu­al voters.) Next Amer­ica has used both meas­ure­ments of the elect­or­ate’s com­pos­i­tion in the past, and will con­tin­ue to do so in the fu­ture.

While the Census does ask about vot­ing par­ti­cip­a­tion, it does not ask about vot­ing pref­er­ences. All the his­tor­ic data ref­er­enced in these stor­ies about the vot­ing pref­er­ences of the dif­fer­ent groups in the vari­ous states comes from the Elec­tion Day exit polls. The name of the in­sti­tu­tion con­duct­ing the exit poll has changed over time; in 2012 it was con­duc­ted by Edis­on Re­search.

In ex­amin­ing the res­ults by edu­ca­tion in these stor­ies, Next Amer­ica is re­port­ing the trends solely for whites with and without at least a four-year col­lege de­gree, be­cause that line of edu­ca­tion­al at­tain­ment has proven a sig­ni­fic­ant fault-line in vot­ing be­ha­vi­or among whites. The gap is not nearly as sig­ni­fic­ant in the vot­ing be­ha­vi­or of minor­it­ies with and without four-year de­grees.

The States of Change pro­ject is unique be­cause it has not only col­lec­ted ret­ro­spect­ive data but uses a demo­graph­ic mod­el con­struc­ted by Wil­li­am Frey of the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion to fore­cast the fu­ture shape of the elect­or­ate, by state, through 2060. The pro­ject ex­plained its meth­od­o­logy for mak­ing its pro­jec­tions of each state’s over­all pop­u­la­tion in this state­ment:

The pro­jec­tions em­ploy a multistate co­hort com­pon­ent meth­od­o­logy which be­gins with the 2010 census and pro­jects ahead in five year in­ter­vals, race and age-spe­cif­ic pop­u­la­tions for each state to 2060 based on the com­pon­ents of do­mest­ic mi­gra­tion, in­ter­na­tion­al mi­gra­tion, fer­til­ity and mor­tal­ity fol­low­ing from mod­el­ing put forth in An­drei Ro­gers,In­tro­duc­tion to Mul­tire­gion­al Math­em­at­ic­al Demo­graphy (New York: Wiley, 1975) These pro­jec­tions are per­formed sep­ar­ately for ra­cial groups wherein each state’s do­mest­ic mi­gra­tion flows are pro­jec­ted between that state and the re­mainder of the four census re­gions (North­east, Mid­w­est, South West). In­ter­na­tion­al mi­gra­tion to the US for each in­ter­val is al­loc­ated to states and re­gions. In both cases, these mi­gra­tion flows and im­mig­raton al­loc­a­tions are based on pat­terns re­cor­ded in the 2007-2012 mul­ti­year Amer­ic­an Com­munity Sur­vey. Race spe­cif­ic fer­til­ity and mor­tal­ity rates for each state as­sume na­tion­al rates spe­cif­ic to age and race. These as well as na­tion­al im­mig­ra­tion levels are broadly con­sist­ent with those used in US Census Bur­eau na­tion­al pro­jec­tions.

In ad­di­tion, the Pro­ject ex­plains its meth­od­o­logy for fore­cast­ing the eli­gible voter pop­u­la­tion this way:

Like all of the data presen­ted after 2014, the eli­gib­il­ity rates for these dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tions are pro­jec­tions. These were gen­er­ated by tak­ing data from the Amer­ic­an Com­munity Sur­vey and di­vid­ing up the Amer­ic­an pop­u­la­tion in­to groups based on their state, race, and age. Mul­ti­level stat­ist­ic­al mod­els were then used to es­tim­ate the eli­gib­il­ity rates and the nat­ur­al­iz­a­tion rates for each state/race/age group. These groups were then tracked for­ward in time and had those unique nat­ur­al­iz­a­tion rates ap­plied to them. In ad­di­tion, these es­tim­ates ac­count for im­mig­ra­tion in­to the state and the res­ult­ing ef­fect it had on dif­fer­ent groups’ over­all eli­gib­il­ity rates. The end res­ult is a pro­ced­ure that is sens­it­ive to the dif­fer­ent rates of nat­ur­al­iz­a­tion ex­per­i­enced by each of these groups and the im­mig­ra­tion each state is pre­dicted to ex­per­i­ence in the fu­ture.

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