The new Republican majority in the House of Representatives represents a far different constituency than the outgoing Democratic guard: more affluent, less urban and with far fewer minorities.
The differences will shape debates in the new Congress on issues from food stamps to tax cuts.
On average, a Republican lawmaker’s constituents earn $4,000 more a year than those in Democratic districts, an Associated Press computer analysis of the demographics of congressional districts found.
In a typical Republican district, just one person in 10 is poor, compared to one in seven in a Democratic district. Republicans control twothirds of the nation’s 100 wealthiest districts.
And though they represent more than half the country, Republicans count only a fourth of black Americans as constituents.
The demographics of the two parties’ constituencies in the House were barely altered by the election. The only real movement came in the percentage of whites represented by Democrats, which declined slightly.
What did change was who’s in charge.
The GOP now controls the committees and the House floor where decisions are made. That spells instant power for the Republican constituency that, according to polls, is concerned about crime, taxes and government spending. The GOP agenda was tailored to their concerns.
At the other end of the power curve, suddenly, are millions of black, Hispanic and poor Americans who for years found clout among the majority Democrats who overwhelmingly represent them.
“The present mood toward the poor is very foul, and they don’t have lobbyists and PACs to protect them,” says Democratic activist Jesse Jackson.
Already the tectonic shift in power is having an effect. Democrats, trying to move toward the political center, no longer talk about expanding social programs but rather are devising their own plans for tax cuts, spending cuts and welfare reform.
Their hope, they say, is to moderate the inevitable changes so that at least some of their constituents’ needs are addressed - embracing a sort of conservatism with heart…that working class families do expect some kind of tax relief.”
The AP analyzed the GOP and Democratic congressional districts based on 1990 census data. It found sharp differences in the kinds of Americans the two parties represent - differences that have existed for years but that take on new meaning with the shift in power.
Though they control more congressional districts, Republicans represent far fewer minority and poor Americans.
The GOP constituency includes just 8 million blacks, 9 million Hispanics and 14 million people under the federal poverty standard. Democrats represent 21 million blacks, 13 million Hispanics and 18 million poor people.
On average, households in Republican districts have a median income of $32,615 compared to $28,577 in Democratic districts. That’s a 14 percent difference.
Seventy percent of Democratic constituents live in urban areas, compared to just 58 percent of Republicans.