US Census: “Blacks Voted at a Higher Rate than Whites in 2012 Election — A First”

For numbers lovers and crunchers, this news from the US Census was among the biggest news last week (yes, bigger than Jody Arias’ conviction): Blacks Voted at a Higher Rate than Whites in 2012 Election — A First, Census Bureau Reports. From that release:

About two in three eligible blacks (66.2 percent) voted in the 2012 presidential election, higher than the 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites who did so, according to a U.S. Census Bureau report released today. This marks the first time that blacks have voted at a higher rate than whites since the Census Bureau started publishing statistics on voting by the eligible citizen population in 1996.[…]

Blacks were the only race or ethnic group to show a significant increase between the 2008 and 2012 elections in the likelihood of voting (from 64.7 percent to 66.2 percent). The 2012 increase in voting among blacks continues what has been a long-term trend: since 1996, turnout rates have risen 13 percentage points to the highest levels of any recent presidential election. In contrast, after reaching a high in 2004, non-Hispanic white voting rates have dropped in two consecutive elections. Between 2008 and 2012, rates for non-Hispanic whites dropped from 66.1 percent to 64.1 percent. As recently as 1996, blacks had turnout rates 8 percentage points lower than non-Hispanic whites.

Overall, the percentage of eligible citizens who voted declined from 63.6 percent in 2008 to 61.8 percent in 2012.

Both blacks and non-Hispanic whites had voting rates higher than Hispanics and Asians in the 2012 election (about 48 percent each).

The numbers were largely driven by black women, who turned out at a 70.1 percent rate. Black women over the age of 45 turned out at over 76 percent.

Many of us were dubious of the conventional wisdom (on the right, at least) that blacks wouldn’t show up last November because of the struggling economy, general disillusionment with Obama, Obama’s support for gay marriage, and so forth. But it’s certainly an interesting development to see the turnout among blacks actually increase from 2008.

Looking at the longer-term trend in a graph from The Diversifying Electorate—Voting Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin in 2012 (and Other Recent Elections) is especially interesting:

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Black turnout in 1996 was only 53.0 percent. It jumped 3.8 points in 2000, 3.2 points in 2004, 4.7 points in 2008, and another 1.5 points in 2012. So the rate was increasing pretty dramatically even before Obama appeared on the ballot in 2008.

Given the recent history of white voting patterns, one could argue that black turnout might be near a point of maxing out. On the other hand, we’ve clearly seen some incredible get-out-the-vote operations put in place by various Democratic organizations in the last couple of election cycles.

By the way, Obama took about 3/4ths of the vote among both Asians and Hispanics, where turnout remains quite weak.

Interesting stuff.

There’s much more in the report.