West Virginia’s demographics explain the state’s outsized importance in the Senate

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Data: U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Senators representing West Virginia — one of the smallest, whitest and most pro-Trump states in the country — have been holding a Democratic-controlled Senate, House and White House from knocking out big agenda items.

What’s happening: Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) failed to reach an infrastructure deal with President Biden. And Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has consistently refused to support several of his party’s initiatives, such as voting rights legislation.

Why it matters: In a representative democracy, lawmakers rightfully represent the interests of their constituents. But the raw demographics of West Virginia differ from those of the rest of the country affected by Capito and Manchin’s actions.

  • The state has experienced the fastest rate of population decline in the nation, according to census data.
  • It looks completely different than the rest of the U.S.: 92% of the population is non-Hispanic white, making it the third-whitest state in a rapidly diversifying country.
  • It also has the lowest percentage of people with a bachelor’s degree or higher, and was the state that had the second-highest margin in favor of Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

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