Study: African-American Voter Turnout Rate Surpassing Whites

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African-American voters set record numbers in voter turnout in the November 2012 election. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

African-American voters set record numbers in voter turnout in the November 2012 election. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – African-American voters had a higher turnout rate than all other minority groups in 2012, and may have voted at a higher rate than whites for the first time in U.S. history.

The Pew Research Center’s analysis of census data, Election Day exit polls, and vote totals showed that voter turnout – and not population growth –increased African Americans’ electoral strength this past November.

According to Election Day exit polls and census data, African-Americans made up 12 percent of the eligible electorate, but accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all the votes cast this year. The study attributes this “over-performance” at the polls to the election of the nation’s first black president and a continually declining turnout among whites.

Turnout rates gained dramatic political importance in the 2012 election in part because Obama won 80 percent of the non-white vote that included 93 percent of African-Americans, 73 percent of Asian-Americans and 71 percent of Hispanics.

Conclusive evidence as to whether or not African-Americans exceeded whites in this year’s election will not be clear until the U.S. Census Bureau publishes its biannual post-election survey data next spring.

Overall, about 129 million votes were cast for president in 2012, down slightly from 131 million in 2008.

When one factors in a 9 million person increase in the age and eligible citizen electorate due to normal population growth between those two elections, the turnout rate among all eligible voters dropped by more than 3 percentage points—to about 60 percent in 2012 from more than 63 percent in 2008.

In the 2008 election, whites made up 76.3 percent of the record 131 million people who voted in that presidential contest between Barack Obama and John McCain. African-Americans made up 12.1 percent and voter turnout increased 4.9 percent since the 2004 election– from 60.3 percent to 65.2 percent in 2008.

In 2008, young African-Americans (18-29 year olds) voted at a higher rate than young whites by more than 6 percent (58 to 52 percent).

According to the Pew study, the most authoritative measure of turnout by racial and ethnic groups comes from the census survey known as the Voting and Registration Supplement, which is conducted in late November after every federal election among a nationally representative sample of about 100,000 adults.

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