In advance of the November 3, 2020 election, we discovered a remarkable shift in the race and gender demographics of general election candidates from 2012 to 2020. Across the electoral landscape, political power is shifting away from white men, and towards women and people of color.
Our Journalism Fellow, Judith Warner, shares some good news about reflective democracy in the Trump years: All around the country, a new generation of activists, advocates, and campaign professionals has been channeling its frustration and outrage into electoral change.
Against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest over police violence, we studied the race and gender of elected leaders in America’s 100 largest cities. This report exposes the demographic tensions behind the public safety clashes between city mayors – many of them women of color – and white male governors and federal officials.
In the context of the COVID pandemic and increased calls for accountability in the criminal system, the Reflective Democracy Campaign tapped our data to craft a demographic profile of American sheriffs, who manage county jails and a wide range of law enforcement activities, yet operate with less oversight than local police chiefs or commissioners.
Elected prosecutors play a key role in a system biased against people of color, yet as our 2014 report revealed, 95% of them are white. In 2019, when we examined prosecutors again, nothing had changed on race, but in just five years, the gender balance had shifted.
Every election cycle seems to trigger a new round of chatter about “electability.” So-called experts often claim white men are the most electable demographic, but when we ran the numbers, the electability myth fell apart. Sure, white men monopolize politics, but that’s not because voters prefer them. Once women and people of color get on the ballot, they win just like white men do, or perform even better.
Following a presidential election that defeated the hopes of women and people of color across the country, we wanted to understand how voters would respond. Running the numbers on the 2018 midterm ballot, we found an extraordinary shift: Primary voters chose more women and people of color as their candidates than ever before.
Following the 2016 election of a president who ran on overt racism and misogyny, we went back to the data to measure exactly how women and people of color were faring in terms of political representation.
We spoke to voters in 2014, and again in 2017, probing their reactions to our political system, where white men – who are 30% of the population – hold far more power than the 70% who are women and people of color. Each time, a majority of voters called for more reflective leadership.
Are white men in charge of government because voters want them to be? In 2015, we analyzed America’s political candidates and found voters had no choice: In most elections, women and people of color were excluded from the ballot.
In the summer of 2014, the Reflective Democracy Campaign compiled race and gender data on elected prosecutors. Our findings? Race and gender disparities were plaguing the sector.
Our 2014 research revealed that the face of America’s leadership failed to reflect our country’s changing demographics. At all levels, white men had a powerful hold on political representation.