With Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama being likely Democratic candidates for the 2008 presidential elections, it is time to look at the demographics of US Presidents over the years. The following diagrams compare their sex, race, and faith with the whole population in 2001.
11 responses to “Presidential Demographics”
Last time I checked people were still allowed to prefer white christian males.
So I don’t see the link between category of voters and the category of people chosen by voters.
Also the link between category of elected and the politics pursued is questionable. Is a woman making diplomacy/war differently?
Politics need to reflect the people they represent, and that also includes the demographic profile – at least to an extent. Using your argument, there would be no point in having women or ethnic groups other than whites in politics.
Do non-white, non-Christian non-males make different politics? Who knows? Who cares? This is not about what they do, but who they are. And I do think that it makes a difference.
“Politics need to reflect the people they represent, and that also includes the demographic profile … This is not about what they do, but who they are.”
I disagree, politicians need not reflect the demographics of their constituents, just the the choice of their constituents – should we adopt a Nielsen system for choosing our presidents, to ensure the correct skin color / height / weight breakdown over time? We’d need to start appointing a lot of overweight, non-christian minority women for the next 200 years to get these averages back in line. In my opinion, what politicians do is who they are, and the only thing that matters.
I agree with Michal, it would virtually be impossible to have leaders reflecting demographics as the graphs suggest.
It also infers (perhaps) that even if the U.S. and other countries did have leaders with cultural and religious backgrounds that made the graphs match, then each leader would ONLY be representing their particular background when they were in office…?
On the flip-side, it may infer that we leaders who are androgynous, come from a mixed background and believe in Christianity 80% of the time, are athiests 15% of the time, and…you get the idea!!
They are certainly very insightful and thought-provoking graphs!!
Nobody said anything about Nielsen ratings or people changing their religion or race according to statistics. But is it really too much to ask that a country that is less than 75% white and over 50% female be represented by a person that is not another white guy? Do you think that all the non-white non-males feel well represented by these administrations?
Reflecting the exact demographics is of course pointless, but I don't understand the resistance against the thought of a bit more diversity at the top.
We aren’t against diversity. We’re just interpreting your graphs a little too literally! =)
Nobody’s against diversity – the Dems are getting set to field a woman and a black man this time around, so there’s a solid chance your graphs will look different in 2008.
I do have statistical and political problems with the argument in the post, though – statistically, the office of president has one occupant at any given time. Historically, it has had just a half-dozen occupants during the more recent times when suggesting a non-white, non-christian man as a candidate wouldn’t have gotten you laughed out of the room (a lot of people were shocked that Kennedy, a *Catholic*, held the office). This is not fertile ground for statistical analysis.
Politically, the focus on ethnicity and religion makes me wonder what’s important here. The president’s job is not to represent anyone, it’s to execute laws defined by those who do. Congress happens to have an increasingly non-white, non-Christian, non-male population, so I think that progress in the form of wider diversity is proceeding well. We just had a guy with the last name “Ellison” sworn in on Thomas Jefferson’s Qu’ran, which is pretty cool.
I completely agree with your concerns about the soundness of the statistics. Presidents are a rather small sample to begin with, and they were spread over a long time which has seen tremendous growth in overall population and diversity. So this is clearly not very well supported by statistics.
Race, ethnicity, etc. is clearly not the most important feature a politician can have, and apparently the graphics create the impression that this is what I think. I don't. But I still believe that they are a factor, and that overall, politicians need to represent their subjects' background in order to be believable. This is not limited to ethnicity or gender, but also includes things like "class", income, etc. Does it make sense to have only white, male, Christian, rich politicians whose families run huge companies?
The point of this posting was to show the one-sidedness of politics, by using the example of American presidents. It was meant to be blunt and direct, because it is just pointing out the obvious. But it needs pointing out, because we just tend to ignore these things because we think we know them. Just because there hasn't been a black or female president in the US, does that mean that "that's just the way things are"? It's been many decades since women were first allowed to vote, and about 40 years since the civil rights movement. It is high time for more than just a few cosmetic changes.
I think it’s possible for citizens to relate to a candidate who’s a different color or religion from them, but class as a differentiator definitely strikes a chord. Empathy for hardship is, I think, the single biggest factor – no one on Capitol Hill suffers for lack of access to health care, so far-out plans for privatizing it sound pretty good. Very few people in governance understand what it’s like to have zero social capital, to be alone, to be completely on the rocks. You’re totally right to needle the issue in this way, I just believe that there are a few more critical dimensions to this than skin color. I think a lot of Obama’s initial traction is coming from his eloquent way of describing class differences.
Exactly right. Condoleeza Rice for President!
Or isn’t she diverse enough for you?
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