2010 Census Tints Congressional Map Red

The nation's congressional districts will be redrawn this year, based on the 2010 Census. With the population shifting away from traditionally Democratic strongholds in the Midwest and Northeast, Republicans are expected to gain seats in the House. Guest host Jennifer Ludden talks with NPR's Washington correspondent Brian Naylor about the findings from the 2010 Census and their implications.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

Whoever becomes the next Republican party chair will likely have a bigger base of elected officials. The nation's congressional districts will be redrawn this year based on the 2010 census, and with the population shifting away from traditionally Democratic strongholds in the Midwest and Northeast, Republicans are expected to gain seats in the House.

Joining us to talk about the numbers and their implications is NPR's Washington correspondent Brian Naylor. Hi there.

BRIAN NAYLOR: Hi, Jennifer.

LUDDEN: The overall population, we have been told, is now more than 308 million. Besides knowing which states had the biggest gains, do we have any specific breakdown of that?

NAYLOR: Well, not quite yet, and that's one of the big things that we have to look forward to in 2011 census-wise. The Census Bureau will begin rolling out the specific demographic numbers later this winter and into the spring. And that will give us a state-by-state breakdown of which population groups are where.

And those numbers will be the ones that actually form the basis of how state officials draw the new congressional district lines. So we won't really see the redistricting process in full swing until February or so.

LUDDEN: So what do we know at this point?

NAYLOR: Well, we know that based on some preliminary data, the population growth was slower in the last decade than it had been at any time since the 1930s. There was growth, but at a slow rate, and it was largely driven by increases in Hispanic population. About three-quarters of the population gains in the last decade were minorities.

And by the way, it's not so much increased immigration but an increased birth rate in the Hispanic community that attributed for the growth.

LUDDEN: I believe I have read that Texas is a good example of this. That state is slated to gain four seats in Congress?

NAYLOR: Right.

LUDDEN: What does that mean politically?

NAYLOR: Well, you know, Texas, like many of the Southern and Western states that have seen growth, they'll gain seats in the House. And the process is going to be controlled by Republicans in most of those Southern states. They control the state legislatures. They control the governors' offices.

But that doesn't automatically mean that the Congressional seats will all go to Republicans. They have to be actually allocated based on where the population is. So, it's thought that maybe two of Texas's new seats could go to areas that have seen a growth in Hispanic population, and so maybe that's good news for Democrats.

LUDDEN: What other states are expected to gain seats?

NAYLOR: In the South, Florida. In the West, Arizona, Nevada. And those are all states that have a significant and growing Hispanic population.

LUDDEN: So despite a lot of headlines touting the census as good news for Republicans, it's not necessarily all bad news for Democrats?

NAYLOR: Yeah. Not necessarily. But the thing is that Democrats have not been able to always get Hispanics to turn out to vote for them. And so it has been a challenge in the past, and it will be a challenge.

LUDDEN: What about the states set to lose seats in Congress?

NAYLOR: Well, you know, they're the ones in the Northeast and the Midwest, the Rust Belt, the cold states. New York loses two seats, Massachusetts a seat, Ohio loses two, Michigan, Illinois. And in each state the effects are a little bit different.

In Massachusetts, all of the Congressional seats are already held by Democrats, so obviously a Democrat will suffer there.

In New York, the state legislature is divided between Democrats and Republicans, and so it's logical to assume that there will be a Democrat who loses his or her seat and a Republican who loses his or her seat.

Ohio loses two seats. The entire process is controlled by Republicans, and so it's possible two Democratic incumbents will be jeopardy. One might be Dennis Kucinich, who ran for President a couple of years ago, and he's so worried about losing his seat that he's already begun reaching out to supporters to lobby on his behalf.

LUDDEN: And Brian, there was one state that actually lost population in the past decade.

NAYLOR: Right, Michigan. All the other states grew at least a little bit. Michigan had a small decline in population. Not so much people moving out, but no one was moving in, and it's because of the economy and lack of jobs, and the inability to create new jobs.

LUDDEN: So what else can we look forward to learning this year, as more information from the 2010 census comes out?

NAYLOR: One of the things that census director Robert Gross said that he's looking forward to is a better sense of the racial makeup of the nation. You may remember that back in 2000, the census for the first time allowed people to kind of self-identify or say that they were multi-racial, and to list those races.

He says that not many people did that then, but he thinks now with President Obama, with big sports stars like Tiger Woods identifying with different races, that maybe more Americans will come forward and that we'll have a more complete picture of who we are as a people.

LUDDEN: NPR's Brian Naylor. Thank you so much.

NAYLOR: Thanks, Jennifer.

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