Comparing the pale male parties

How do UK Conservative and US Republican legislators line up demographically?

Boris Johnson with new Conservative MPs, December 2019.

Headlines after the 2018 US midterm elections and the 2019 UK general election had one thing in common: They both announced that the new lower houses (of Representatives and Commons, respectively) would be the most diverse ever. This comes despite the different parties in control — Democratic and Conservative majorities, respectively, of comparable margins (Democrats hold 53 percent and Conservatives 56 percent of seats).

This inspired me to line up the Conservatives and the Republicans in the US House and draw out their demographic differences. While they could both be described as primarily parties of white men, this is less true of the Conservatives, of whom 72 percent are white and male, compared to 90 percent of House Republicans. Keep in mind that in Britain, white males make up around 42 percent of the population, compared to around 30 percent in the US.

Women: 24% v. 7%

In the US House, the task of increasing the number of women has fallen almost entirely on the Democrats; there are only 13 female Republicans, which amounts to 7 percent of the party’s conference and only 13 percent of the 101 women in the House.

The Conservatives have 87 women, who make up 24 percent of the parliamentary party and almost 40 percent of all female MPs (who in turn are 33 percent of the Commons as a whole, compared to 24 percent of the US House).

Because in the UK the party of the right has stood a number of successful female candidates, the percentage of women in the Commons as a whole has risen to around one-third, while the House of Representatives remains stuck below one-quarter.

Ethnicity: 6% v. >1%

Conservative MPs remain more white than the general UK population, with non-white members on around 6 percent of the parliamentary party (22 of 365 MPs). They account for around one-third of the 65 non-white MPs in the Commons as a whole.

House Republicans report only 11 members who identify as Hispanic (7), Asian (1), African-American (1) and Native American (2). They account for less than 1 percent of the party conference and 9 percent of all 119 non-white members.

LGBT: 7% v. 0%

Of Conservative MPs who have publicly disclosed their sexuality, 24 identify as LGBT. That’s almost 7 percent of the parliamentary party, and half of all LGBT MPs, who as a whole account for around 14 percent of the House.

There are currently seven openly LGBT members of the House of Representatives; none are Republicans.

In short, while the UK Conservatives remain disproportionately white and male, there is a clear and significant difference between them and American Republicans when it comes to descriptive representation.

Sites used as data sources:

Comparative political scientist, Drake University. https://www.drake.edu/polsci/facultystaff/kieranwilliams/

Comparative political scientist, Drake University. https://www.drake.edu/polsci/facultystaff/kieranwilliams/