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U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Orlando, drew fire for comparing the tea party to the Ku Klux Klan in a fundraising email just days before the Florida Democratic Party’s big conference in Orlando.
At the conference, he continued his theme of portraying the GOP as "bigots" when he read a mock Republican Party conference agenda that included raising the Confederate flag.
A less publicized part of his speech, though, seemed worth of a fact-check, and on a less incendiary topic: the changing demographics of Florida voters.
"We go into an election next year with something very important happening in Florida this year. This is the year that Florida becomes a majority minority state, joining New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, California and Hawaii. Why is that important? Because it tells us what our strategy as the Democratic Party will be for next year ..."
Grayson then continued to talk about how the Democratic Party represents a variety of people, including blacks and Spanish-speakers, and that the party will tap into that diversity during the 2014 election.
The proportion of minorities in Florida -- particularly Hispanics -- is a key issue for both major political parties as they prepare for the 2014 election battle when Republican Gov. Rick Scott is on the ballot.
Is Florida on track to become majority minority in 2014?
A look at census data
In this context, "majority minority" would mean that non-Hispanic whites represent less than half the population, while minorities -- blacks, Hispanics and other groups -- add up to more than half.
We interviewed demographers, both in Florida and nationally, and all of them disputed Grayson’s claim.
The evidence that Grayson’s office sent us from the census only showed that the percentage of non-Hispanic whites in Florida has shrunk since 2000.
We looked up the most recent data on the census website, and it showed that 11 million non-Hispanic whites accounted for about 57 percent of Florida’s overall 19.3 million population, as of July 2012.
So in Florida, minorities are about 43 percent. Census data showed a few states were majority-minority: Hawaii (77.2 percent minority), California (60.6 percent), New Mexico (60.2 percent) and Texas (55.5 percent).
Census data and other evidence cited by Grayson’s office didn’t prove that the state is about to flip to majority-minority next year. But his staff told us they think Florida is clearly on its way.
"The crossover point will take place earlier than projected, possibly as early as this year," said Grayson spokeswoman Lauren Doney. "We readily acknowledge that other people may view the data and reach different conclusions; only time will tell."
University of Florida projections
The census doesn’t make projections for changing demographics. For that, we turned to a 2013 study from the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
Using the paper’s statewide projections, we looked at the non-Hispanic white population percentage through 2040. The percentage started with 57 percent in 2015 and then drops a percentage point or two every five years, until it hits virtually break-even in 2040.
"We project the proportion of the population that is non-Hispanic white to decrease over time, reaching 50.2 percent by 2040," Stefan Rayer, a research demographer, who co-authored the report with Stanley Smith, told PolitiFact Florida.
It’s highly unlikely that the percentage of non-Hispanic whites would drop from 57 percent to 50 percent by next year, agreed University of Miami demographer Ira Sheskin.
"In fact, impossible," Sheskin wrote in an email.
Florida’s future Hispanic population depends on a variety of factors that make projections -- particularly out to 2040 -- challenging. Those factors include whether immigration reform occurs, and the health of the economy in Florida, the nation and Latin America.
"In the case of Florida -- particularly Miami -- Miami attracted a lot of immigrants recently from Venezuela, Colombia and Brazil," said Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic Research for Pew Research Center.
That’s a relatively recent phenomenon compared to the earlier waves of immigrants from Cuba, he said. "Whether or not immigration reform happens -- whatever the push and pull factors are in Latin America -- that can all shape what happens in Florida."
Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer at Pew, pointed to Census data that shows that the percentage of minority residents in Florida has grown slowly in the past couple of years -- from 42 percent in July 2010 to 43 percent in July 2012.
If the share of minority residents were to increase at half a percentage point per year -- the average of the last two years -- "it would take 14 years for Florida to become less than 50 percent white, not Hispanic."
Grayson said, "This is the year Florida becomes a majority minority state." The state is inching closer to majority-minority status, but in 2012, non-Hispanic whites still accounted for about 57 percent of Florida’s population.
Based on our research and interviews with the experts, it’s highly unlikely -- one expert said impossible -- that Florida will become minority-majority next year. It’s possible that it may not happen for many more years. A University of Florida study projects it won’t happen before 2040.
There are a variety of factors that could speed up or slow down that process, but we found no evidence to support Grayson’s claim that Florida will become majority-minority this year.
We rate this claim False.
U.S. Census, Population estimates, sex, race and Hispanic origin, 2012
University of Florida Bureau of Economic and Business Research, "Population projections by age, sex race, Hispanic origin for Florida and its counties 2015-2040 with estimates for 2012," 2013
Brookings, "Shift to Majority-Minority population in the U.S. happening faster than expected," June 19, 2013
Miami Herald’s Naked Politics blog, "Alan Grayson compares GOP to paranoid, gullible, bigoted, Confederate flag waving gun nuts," Oct. 26, 2013
Florida Current, "U.S. Rep. Grayson calls tea party Republicans ‘bigoted’, ‘paranoid,’" Oct. 26, 2013
Palm Beach Post’s Post on Politics blog, "Grayson boasts that GOP convention would include Confederate flag raising, Bill of Rights burning," Oct. 26, 2013
Interview, Robert Bernstein, spokesman U.S. Census, Oct. 28, 2013
Interview, Lauren Doney, spokeswoman U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, Oct. 28, 2013
Interview, Stefan Rayer, Research Demographer in the Population Program of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida, Oct. 28, 2013
Interview, William Frey, demographer Brookings Oct. 28, 2013
Interview, Mark Hugo Lopez, director of Hispanic Research for Pew Research Center, Oct. 28, 2013
Interview, Jeffrey Passel, senior demographer at Pew Research Center, Oct. 28, 2013
Interview, Ira Sheskin, professor and chair University of Miami Department of Geography and Regional Studies, Oct. 29, 2013
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