In the aftermath of our groundbreaking 2014 study showing that political power in America sat disproportionately with white men, one nagging question remained: what if more women and people of color weren’t in office because the voters didn’t want them to be?
So we went back to work, analyzing more than 51,000 candidates by race and gender to find out if American voters had a choice: Did the option exist to elect candidates who looked more like the country, and less like a country club? We found that, from the federal level down to county elections, fewer than 30% of all political candidates were women, and just 10% of candidates were people of color.
As of 2015, neither major party was consistently running candidates who reflected the American people. Overall, 96% of candidates running as Republicans were white; so were 82% of Democrats and 90% of Independents. The absence of diversity was most acute at the federal level, where white men were 71% of candidates. The proportion of women candidates—especially white women—rose at the state and local levels: White women were 13% of federal candidates, 22% of candidates for state legislature, and 26% of local office candidates. People of color, meanwhile, were 16% of candidates at the federal level but only 8% at the local.