Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Nov. 12, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

This wasn’t your father’s electorate, much less your grandfather’s.

Even as California’s white population declined sharply in the last generation to well below 50 percent, middle-age Anglo homeowners still dominated California’s elections. And this widening characteristic gap between voters and the overall population contributed to chronic political gridlock.

But Tuesday’s election saw the emergence of a much different demographic profile that, if it continues, permanently changes assumptions about our politics.

California’s new electorate, derived from exit polling data, is multiracial, younger, more liberal, not very religious and less likely to be married with children.

The Field Poll, California’s most venerable survey, had calculated in its last pre- election poll that Tuesday’s voters would be 70-plus percent white and mostly 50-plus years old – just about what it’s been in recent elections.

But an exit poll conducted for a consortium of news organizations found them to be just 54 percent white and just 36 percent 50 years or older.

A late-blooming surge of voter registration that was largely young and Democratic hinted at the Election Day shift. It happened so late and so suddenly, thanks to a new Internet registration system, that Field and other pollsters could not adjust their survey samples.

Among its other effects, the registration surge dropped the Republican share to below 30 percent for the first time in the state’s history – a decline also reflected in Tuesday’s election, when just 28 percent of those casting ballots were self-described Republicans, about as many as saw themselves as independents.

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