The Unprecedented Growth of the Rising American Electorate
According to the latest Census data, the Rising American Electorate or RAE (unmarried women, African Americans, Latinos, other people of color and millennials) is overwhelmingly responsible for the recent growth in the U.S. population:
- The RAE accounted for 82 percent of the growth between 2000 and 2014 and a jaw-dropping 88 percent between 2012 and 2014.
- Unmarried women and Latinos drove the explosive growth of the RAE in the last decade, both growing by 12 million between 2000 and 2014.
- These two factors—the stunning growth in the RAE as a whole and the particular growth of unmarried women and Latinos—are critically important to note because:
- Marital status is a major determinant of participation; unmarried women register and turn out to vote at lower rates than married women.
- While the groups in the RAE are the most under-represented groups in the electorate, they make up the new majority in this country and their views are not being represented by their elected leaders.
In 2014, more than 75 million members of the Rising American Electorate did not vote. Clearly, too many people are still standing on the sidelines of our democracy. More than episodic registration, education and outreach efforts must be made to boost their engagement, participation and representation. The VPC knows from its research that the greatest reason the RAE cites for not participating is lack of information on the candidates and policy debates on issues of importance to the RAE. Provide information and greater citizenship follows.
This is especially true in a rapidly changing voting environment. The ways Americans register and vote have changed dramatically (by mail, online, and early voting in-person, for example), and new voter requirements have been imposed in many states. The need to provide the RAE with information about these changes gives the work of the VPC added urgency.
The Rising American Electorate: Significantly Under-Registered
Large percentages of the groups that make up the RAE are not registered to vote. As of 2012:
- 31 percent of unmarried women who are eligible are not registered, representing 28 percent of all unregistered citizens.
- 42 percent of young people between 18 and 29 who are eligible are not registered, representing 31 percent of all unregistered citizens.
- 27 percent of African Americans who are eligible are not registered, representing 12 percent of all unregistered citizens.
- 41 percent of Latinos who are eligible are not registered, representing 16 percent of all unregistered citizens.
The critical first step toward increasing the civic engagement of these groups is registration. In a presidential election year, for every one voter in the RAE who was registered and did not vote, there were four who were unregistered and therefore could not vote.
The RAE share of the electorate tells the same story. In presidential election years and off, unmarried women and the RAE continue to be significantly less than their share of the voting eligible population.