Short-term GOP problem: turnout; long...

Short-term GOP problem: turnout; long-term GOP problem: demographics

Posted in the Minneapolis Forum

Awful Truth

Minneapolis, MN

#1 May 11, 2013
You've probably seen lots of post-election speculation in recent months pointing to the conclusion that it just gets worse from here on out for the Republicans: The country is getting less and less white, and older white voters get replaced by young new non-white voters, the Republican path to victory (at least at the presidential level) just gets narrower and narrower.

It's not speculation anymore, though; on Wednesday, the Census Bureau released a thorough quantitative demonstration of how the electorate is changing. The data in the Current Population Survey (pdf) reveal rising black turnout and falling white turnout in 2012, but even if turnout rates shift to a more typical pattern without Barack Obama on the ballot in 2016, the constantly increasing non-white share of the population means that the GOP's door moves a little closer to slamming shut each year.

The marquee number from their study, that's been getting most of the press, is that this is the first election ever where African-American turnout exceeded turnout among non-Hispanic whites. As you can see in the excerpted chart above, 66.2 percent of eligible black voters turned out, while 64.1 percent of white voters did so. This shouldn't come as a total surprise, though, given not just exit polls (Pew Research predicted that back in December, just using data from exit polling), but also that some of the states where Obama's performance improved the greatest from 2008 to 2012 were the ones with the largest black populations (like Louisiana and Misssissippi).

That might lead to some worries that in a normal presidential year (one that doesn't have an African-American president on the ballot, and where voter suppression efforts are less conspicuous and thus perhaps less of a motivating factor), black turnout might fall off. The folks at Pew point out, however, that the rise in black turnout has been a steady one, predating Obama's candidacies, going all the way back to 1996.

In addition, you can see the larger trend emerging by looking at the changes in the raw number of votes among different races. According to the Census Bureau's release:

In comparison to the election of 2008, about 1.7 million additional Black voters reported going to the polls in 2012, as did about 1.4 million additional Hispanics and about 550,00 additional Asians. The number of non-Hispanic White voters decreased by about 2 million between 2008 and 2012. Since 1996, this is the only example of a race group showing a decrease in net voting from one presidential election to the next, and it indicates that the 2012 voting population expansion came primarily from minority voters.

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