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GOP sees good news in census numbers

By Ed Hornick and Paul Steinhauser, CNN
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U.S. population tops 300 million
  • Southern and Western states see population growth in 2010 census
  • Eight states gain House seats and 10 states lose seats in latest census count
  • Census report to kick off a fight next year between Democrats and GOP over redistricting

Washington (CNN) -- The numbers for the 2010 census are out, and the news appears good for Republican-leaning states when it comes to adding new seats in the House of Representatives.

The U.S. Constitution mandates that a census be conducted every 10 years to reflect the population shifts in the country accurately. The new numbers spell out congressional reapportionment as the states divvy up the 435 seats in the House.

Tuesday's findings showed a growing population in Western and Southern states -- areas where Republicans tend to do well.

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures:

• Eight states will gain House members, including Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington.

How the U.S. grew
2010 Census: A state's political clout

• Ten states will lose members in the House, including Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Then-candidate Barack Obama won eight of those states in 2008.

• Thirty-two states saw no gains in seats, including California. The solid blue state still has the largest congressional delegation with 53 seats.

In states where one party dominates, the redistricting process could give that party an advantage, and the results could have a big impact on the 2012 battle for control of Congress.

The GOP made major gains in last month's midterm elections with governorships and increased sway in state legislatures, which have control over the redistricting process. The election results will give the Republicans a much bigger say in how the electoral map is redrawn.

The census numbers also could have a big impact on the next race for the White House, as some states will gain or lose electoral votes, and ultimately influence the outcome of the 2012 presidential race.

Read how the census numbers could tighten playing field for Obama

Of particular note, Texas -- a solid Republican state -- gained four House seats. A large Hispanic population there may have been good for Obama in 2008, but the state went for Republican John McCain. The state will now have 36 House seats.

Another influential state that will help a candidate in electoral gains is Florida. The state was at the center of the 2000 electoral battle between George W. Bush and Democrat Al Gore, and has since been a proving ground for both parties' candidates. The state will now have 27 seats.

Some Democrats, though, said they are optimistic about the census results.

Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said the news "pours cold water on Republicans' hype that redistricting is a disaster for Democrats."

"Democratic communities and constituencies have grown in size in states like Arizona, Florida, Nevada, and Washington," the New York Democrat said in a statement. "In states that will lose a seat, the number of Republicans who will be competing with each other creates opportunities for House Democrats."

Redistricting may also pose problems for candidates in newly drawn congressional districts, a new study finds.

Political researchers Michael Wagner and Jonathan Winburn found that when residents are placed into new districts as a result of redistricting, "many end up struggling at the ballot box."

The reason? Voters know less about the candidates than those who weren't placed in new districts.

It "results in a vote about as random as buying a sealed 'mystery' bag of groceries -- sure, they picked something, but they don't know quite what it is until they get home," said Wagner, an assistant professor of political science at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

"Consequently, there are real questions about the quality of representation these people are likely to receive through no fault of their own," he added.

The study appears in the December edition of the journal Political Research Quarterly.