Louie Gohmert (AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Only 2 percent of the population has ever run for political office, and it's mostly white men

America's pool of would-be candidates is wildly out of step with what the country actually looks like


Katie McDonough
September 4, 2014 6:58PM (UTC)

According to new data from the Pew Research Center, only 2 percent of the American population has ever run for political office, and most of those candidates were white men. It's a pool of would-be politicians that is wildly out of step with what the country actually looks like.

This is kind of obvious, but it's interesting to have the numbers broken down.

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Women make up 51 percent of the population, but only account for 25 percent of the people who say they've run for office.

Aspiring politicians are also overwhelmingly white, according to the breakdown of candidates:

While non-Hispanic whites make up 66% of American adults, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012 American Community Survey, 82% of those who say they have ever run for office are white.

By contrast, non-Hispanic blacks make up 12% of the adult population but only 5% of office-seekers. Similarly, 15% of U.S. adults are Hispanic while only 6% of the adults who have ever run for office are Hispanic.

So most people in the country will never run for office. But of that narrow swatch of the population, mostly men, mostly white men, run. And then mostly men, mostly white men, get to make policies for the rest of us.


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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