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Black voter turnout up, but Dems can't take 'Obama effect' for granted

A new study signals that black voter turnout is up, but analysts say that Democrats can't assume the trend will last beyond the 'Obama effect.' Moreover, Republicans are reaching out to minorities.

By Husna HaqCorrespondent / April 29, 2013

President Obama speaks about immigration reform at a Las Vegas high school earlier this year. Obama won two-thirds of of the Hispanic vote in the November elections in part because of the conservative immigration positions staked out by Republicans in their party primary.

Isaac Brekken/AP/File


If you had any doubts, it’s now official: President Obama has blacks to thank for his reelection. It turns out that record levels of black voter turnout propelled Obama to victory in 2012. So much so that if blacks had voted at 2004 levels, we’d all be saluting a President Romney right now.

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We think Obama has a few million thank you cards to sign.

That’s according to a new Associated Press-Brookings Institution analysis on 2012 election data that contains a few gems that both parties would be wise to examine.

Among the surprises: Latinos aren’t as lucrative, votes-wise, as they appear to be – yet. And Democrats, who appeared to have cemented their role in 2012 as the minority party, shouldn’t get too comfortable.

Here are four lessons the 2012 election post-mortem taught us about the minority vote:

Black voters can turn out

 Voter ID laws. High unemployment among blacks. Low rates of registration. Lack of transportation and access to polling stations.

These were all supposed to keep blacks away from the polls last year, but they didn’t.

Not only did black voters turn out, their turnout levels surpassed that of whites and most minority groups, including Latinos and Asians, in last year’s elections.

Though we don’t have exact data on the 2012 election turnout breakdown just yet, 2008 turnout data represented the smallest gap on record between whites (66.1 percent turnout) and blacks (65.2 percent turnout). According to the AP-Brookings analysis, 2 million to 5 million fewer whites voted in 2012 than in 2008, erasing that narrow lead.

Latinos still lag

The same headlines that warned of plummeting black voter turnout in 2012 also trumpeted the so-called Latin sensation, which was supposed to see record levels of Latinos turn out at the polls.

They did, but not at the levels black voters turned out.

Consider this: While blacks make up about 13 percent of the population and 12 percent of the share of eligible voters, they represented 13 percent of the total 2012 votes cast, thereby “outperforming” their share.

By contrast, Latinos make up 17 percent of the population but just 11 percent of eligible voters and 10 percent of total 2012 votes cast, somewhat underperforming for their share.

In fact, Latinos probably won’t surpass the share of eligible black voters until 2024, according to the AP-Brookings analysis.

Why the lower Latino rates?

Latinos may be growing fast, but they’re still a fairly young cohort, with more than one-third of Latinos (almost 35 percent) younger than the voting age of 18.


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