Our new book is titled Divided We Stand: The 2020 Elections and American Politics. Among other things, it discusses state and congressional elections. The 2020 campaign unfolded amid a decennial census.
First, the major Latino undercount many Democrats and minority advocacy groups feared didn't materialize, throwing cold water on theories about a Trump-induced chilling effect on census participation. Hispanic residents were 18.7 percent of the U.S. population in the 2020 Census, in line with pre-census estimates and up from 16.3 percent in the 2010 Census. Non-Hispanic whites fell from 64 percent to just 57.8 percent of the population.
That means Hispanic-heavy urban areas in states like California (where Hispanics just became the state's largest ethnic group) and Texas will get to keep slightly more political power that otherwise might have gone to whiter, more Republican areas.
Second, urban areas in general fared better than expected in today's population counts. New York City counted a massive seven percent more residents than pre-census estimates suggested, and Chicago's Cook County tallied three percent more. That should marginally help Democrats draw more favorable districts in Illinois and New York to offset expected GOP gerrymandering gains in Texas, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere.
Meanwhile, most rural counties (and 52 percent of all counties) reported population losses since 2010, and many reported even weaker numbers than expected. That could make it slightly more challenging for GOP mapmakers to dilute urban and suburban Democratic votes. In Texas, for example, it could make the strategic difference between Republicans settling for a 25-13 map versus attempting a 27-11 gerrymander.
If there's a concern for Democrats, it's that the higher-than-expected share of the population reporting more than one race - in part due to changes to the questionnaire design since 2010 - could make it more difficult to draw majority-minority districts containing a majority of one race. The Census's new differential privacy procedures, which add in noise to make the data more diffuse across tracts, only compound that challenge.
Although today's data brought Democrats good news, it only offsets a small fraction of the GOP's dominance over redistricting. Republicans still hold final redistricting authority in 20 states totaling 187 districts, while Democrats control eight states totaling 75 districts. Another ten states totaling 121 districts utilize independent commissions, while control is split between the parties in six states totaling 46 districts.