Following the 2016 election of a president who ran on overt antipathy towards women and people of color, the Reflective Democracy Campaign went back to the data, to measure exactly how these two demographics – comprising 70% of Americans – were faring when it came to political representation.
Our 2017 findings revealed a deeply broken democracy. While Americans were 39% people of color, our politicians were 90% white – and mostly male. Across party lines, a majority of voters wanted to end the “old boys club,” but voters were powerless to make change as long as both major parties resisted running women and people of color as candidates.
As of 2017, both of our major parties were running white men for office with disheartening regularity. At 51% of the population, women were only 28% of candidates for office. And at 39% of the population, people of color were just 12% of candidates.
Grave demographic power imbalances were found in red and blue states alike. In fact, when we compared red Georgia with blue New York, we found New York’s politicians were less reflective of its residents of color than Georgia’s, and trailed Georgia in women’s representation as well.
Our first-ever data dive into American cities revealed the distribution of political power trending disproportionately white as well. Even cities with majority populations of color were mostly run by white politicians, and only cities with populations that were 90% or more of color had elected leaders who matched the local demographics.
This report was issued in October, 2017. When the 2018 midterms took place, we saw shifting ballot demographics translate into a wave of election victories for women and people of color. This historic upheaval is analyzed in The Electability Myth: The Shifting Demographics of Political Power in America (2019). For updated city data, please see Confronting the Demographics of Power: America’s Cities (2020).