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Virginia's Political Preference Changing with Demographics - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Virginia's Political Preference Changing with Demographics

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Studies show political preferences across the commonwealth are changing. Virginia was once a conservative stronghold, but chose a Democratic president in 2008 and 2012. Now the question is, will the trend hold true in this year's races?

"You might say it's not old Virginia anymore, it's not the Old Dominion. In a lot of ways it's the new Dominion," said Geoff Skelley, a political analyst for the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

Policy researchers and political experts say Virginia's new Democratic trend is largely thanks to changing demographics in Northern Virginia.

"I think a lot of it has to do with the growth of the urban areas or suburban, major metropolitan areas in the state of Virginia - particularly Northern Virginia," Skelley said.

"Northern Virginia is key," said Dustin Cable, a researcher for the UVA Cooper Center. "That's where we're seeing the biggest changes in the state."  Those changes include huge increases in the Hispanic and Asian populations since the early 1990s, which in many ways mirror similar trends across the country.

"I like to think of Virginia as sort of a microcosm for some of the trends we're seeing nationwide," Cable said. That's part of why many are watching this year's statewide races with keen interest and a big question - will the demographic trends that turned Virginia blue hold true in an off-year election?

"We're talking about a different electorate that shows up to the polls. And that electorate during off-year elections tends to be older, and tends to be whiter," Cable said.

Analysts say that also means the electorate is likely to be more conservative. But at the end of the day, experts say, it won't be a demographic trend that decides Virginia's next leaders.

"The problem is this turnout issue. The people that actually show up to the polls is what makes the difference, not necessarily the demographic trends that we're seeing in the total population," Cable said.

Though voter turnout will likely be the deciding factor this November, experts say the demographic trends will continue to change the way Virginia votes.

Click here for the Cooper Center report, and here for the UVA Center for Politics report.

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