UP NOLAN CREEK: Changes
Monday, 19 November 2012 by Wayne Carpenter
In the inevitable post-mortems occurring after every Presidential election, numerous pundits have expressed their learned opinions that many prognosticators missed their predictions because they underestimated the changing demographics of our nation when making their election forecasts. Demographic factors include race or ethnicity, sex, marital status, place of origin, age, income, education level, mobility, and religious preference, are the indicators which make up the statistical characteristics of the population in a given area. The one immutable law concerning demographics is change occurs. There is an old joke that only a wet baby embraces change. But regardless of our wishes, we might as well get used to the fact that things are not the way they used to be in the "good old days," and we best not get too attached to the way they are right now because they soon will be different in the near future.
Texas is an obvious example. There are vast geographical areas of our state that are, almost literally, drying up and blowing away. Other areas, such as our own, continue to grow. A few, such as Round Rock or Pflugerville, have seen population explosions in the past few decades. It wasn't that long ago Pflugerville ISD, which now has more students enrolled than the entire population of the City of Belton, was battling the Holland Hornets for football supremacy in what was then Class B football. In another 30 years, Salado ISD, which covers a very large geographic area, may well have more students than Temple, if future water shortages don't slow the march of development northward along I-35.
While many rural Texas communities have aging and predominately white populations, Bell County, thanks to the I-35 corridor and the presence of Fort Hood, remains younger, more vibrant, and increasingly more diverse than many areas of our state. Statewide, 17 percent of the Texas population is under the age of 18 with only 10 percent over age 65. Of the state's 25 million population, over 9.5 million (about 38 percent) are Hispanic, almost three million (12 percent) are African American, and 1.4 million (6 percent) are of Asian descent. The Hispanic population has increased dramatically inthe past three decades, but percentage wise, the fastest growing group in Texas is no long Hispanic—it is Asian. Bell County has a substantial Asian population with a significant Korean presence in the Killeen-Fort Hood area.
Even religious affiliations are changing. Mainline Protestant churches, such as the Methodists and Presbyterians, are declining or barely holding their own in membership. One of our city's oldest congregations, the Episcopalians, recently closed its doors, while many others experience growth. In addition, a growing number claim no religious affiliation of any kind.
As experts dissect the returns from last week's elections, it is fascinating to see how the changing demographics in the nation translated into votes. There are exceptions, but generally speaking, younger voters, minorities, urban voters and women voted predominately for President Obama, while middle-age, older, rural and suburban voters, especially white males, went strongly for Governor Romney. Nationally, Obama won 60 percent of the 18-25 age group, 73 percent of Asian-American voters, and 71 percent of Hispanic voters. Basically, all the sub groups of our population, those groups which are growing most rapidly, voted most often for Obama. One confusing phenomenon was the fact that even though Romney carried college-educated voters by a small margin nationally, in the 10 states with the highest percentage of college educated voters, Obama carried all 10. Conversely, in the 10 states with the lowest percentage of college-educated citizens, Romney carried nine. The only exception was Nevada, which has a rapidly growing population of both Hispanic and Asian voters, who voted strongly for Obama.
No one can accurately predict the future. What appeals to voters in one election can change swiftly in a short time given unforeseen events. I do believe one thing is certain: demographic changes are reshaping our nation at a much more rapid pace than many of us could have ever imagined, and in many cases, older Americans are not comfortable with those changes. Regardless of political ideology, politicians and political parties at all levels must seek to understand and adapt to the changing demographics of America. If not, they face serious consequences both at the ballot box and in attempting to govern our increasingly diverse nation.