Blacks voted at a higher rate this year than other minority groups and for the first time in history may also have voted at a higher rate than whites, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data, election day exit poll data and vote totals from selected cities and counties.
Unlike other minority groups whose increasing electoral muscle has been driven mainly by population growth, blacks’ rising share of the vote in the past four presidential elections has been the result of rising turnout rates.
In fact, according to census data and the election day exit polls, blacks made up 12 percent of the eligible electorate1 this year but accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all votes cast—a repeat of the 2008 presidential election, when blacks “over-performed” at the polls by the same ratio. In all previous presidential elections for which there are reliable data, blacks had accounted for a smaller share of votes than eligible voters.
In 2012, more Hispanics and Asian-Americans voted than ever before, but the turnout rates among these groups (votes cast as a share of eligible voters), while rising, continues to lag that of the general public by a substantial margin. Their growing electoral muscle is mainly due to their rapid population growth.
As for whites, not only has their share of the eligible electorate been falling for decades, but their turnout rate appears to have declined in 2012 for the second presidential election in row.2The Los Angeles Times reports:
In the run-up to this year’s presidential election, a number of states with Republican-majority legislatures passed laws limiting voting hours, curtailing voter registration efforts or requiring voters to show identification. Many black leaders said those laws would disproportionately hurt elderly, poor and minority voters and accused Republicans of running a campaign of “voter suppression.”
Republicans said the measures were needed to combat voter fraud. In a few states, Republican legislative leaders explicitly said they hoped the measures would hurt Democratic candidates or reduce the “urban” vote.
Courts blocked some of those laws, and in the end they may have backfired as black organizations used “voter suppression” as a rallying cry. The perception that “people don’t want you to vote” motivated many blacks, particularly young people, to turn out, said Chanelle Hardy, executive director of the National Urban League. “It was huge,” she said during a recent panel discussion.