In spite of new voter ID laws that many believed were implemented to reduce Black voting, African-American voter turnout was historically high in 2012, maybe even higher as a percentage than white voters.
A new study from the Pew Research Center found that African Americans voted at the highest levels of all minority groups and for the first time in history that level may have been higher than white voters.
“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,” said Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, in a statement. “These participation milestones are notable not just in light of the long history of black disenfranchisement, but also in light of recently-enacted state voter identification laws that some critics contended would suppress turnout disproportionately among blacks and other minority groups.”
African Americans make up around 12 percent of the US population, but Pew found that Black voters were 13 percent of the overall voting populace in 2012.
Having Barack Obama as a candidate for President has likely increased turnout among Black voters, but the growth has been happening steadily for nearly a decade.
Four years ago, the rate of Black voter turnout was almost equal to that of whites, continuing a trend of a steady increase in black turnout rates that began in 1996. This year, with white turnout appearing to have dropped, black turnout seems very likely to have exceeded the white level, although definitive figures won’t be available until the Census Bureau reports in a few months.
The Los Angeles Times found that overall about 60 percent of the Americans eligible to register actually voted in 2012. That data was compiled by Michael McDonald of George Mason University. The number, if correct, would be about three points below the 2008 turnout, with much of the decline coming among white voters. The precise final number won’t be known until New York state completes its vote count, which has been slowed by the after-effects of Hurricane Sandy.
The year 2012 also saw more Hispanics and Asian-Americans vote than ever before, but those numbers were based on totals, rather than as a percentage of eligible voters. Turnout rates among these groups, e.g., votes cast as a share of eligible voters, while rising, continues to be less than that of the general public by a sizeable margin.
Their growing numbers are due mainly to their rapid population growth, rather than increased turnout.
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.
The research goes to show that more than ever the United States electorate is changing.