By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
I almost drafted this post as an epic folk ballad entitled, "The Demographics They Are a-Changin.'" Thankfully, I thought better of it. The artistry may not have been appreciated, but the underlying point is very important to those who study the American political landscape, including litigators preparing for trial in venues across the country. In cities, counties, and federal districts throughout America, demographics are indeed changing. In large part, that means that we are becoming a more diverse country, with population growth among nonwhites outstripping population growth among whites over the past two decades by more than 42 million. But that doesn’t mean that every part of the country is becoming more diverse. Indeed, based on a recent analysis published in Daily Kos, large parts of America are becoming less diverse, and the difference between the zones where diversity is waxing and the zones where it is waning also serves as a guide to political leaning. For the most part, where you see increasing diversity, you see “blue” or Democrat-leaning venues, and where you see decreasing diversity, you see “red” or Republican-leaning venues.
When assessing venues, attorneys and jury selection consultants are used to thinking of the venue’s demographic profile as a kind of snapshot. Based on past trial experience and census data, we come to expect certain proportions of certain kinds of people to persist over time. But demographics aren't frozen in amber. We live in a very mobile society, and people are moving around now more than ever. A very useful interactive map was created by David Jarman, a former editor at Swing State Project and now an editor and number cruncher for Daily Kos elections. In a piece entitled, "The Demographic Underpinnings of America's Blue Shift," Jarman notes a number of recent changes: "California has gone from swing state to blue state; Virginia has gone from red state to swing state; Tennessee has gone from swing state to red state; West Virginia didn't even bother to pause at swing state en route to switching from blue state to red state." Most media is national these days, so one might wonder how politics can still be very local, and how some profound regional differences are able to persist. What Jarman found is that these differences can be explained by different directions of population change. Looking at county by county elections data, he observed that those areas that had experienced the greatest increase in nonwhite or college-educated populations also experienced the greater increase in Democratic votes, and that trend was especially strong regarding race. In this post, I’ll share his interactive map (embedded below) and discuss a few implications for lawyers and consultants who are assessing trial venues.