Changing History

Some fascinating findings from Pew’s on-going number crunching of the 2012 election. African-Americans, for the first time ever, may have voted at higher rates than American whites.From Pew

Blacks voted at a higher rate this year than other minority groups and for the first time in history may also have voted at a higher rate than whites, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of census data, election day exit poll data and vote totals from selected cities and counties.

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.

According to census data and the election day exit polls, blacks made up 12 percent of the eligible electorate1 this year but accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all votes cast–a repeat of the 2008 presidential election, when blacks “over-performed” at the polls by the same ratio. In all previous presidential elections for which there are reliable data, blacks had accounted for a smaller share of votes than eligible voters.

Pew goes on to note that while participation rates for Hispanics and Asian-Americans continue to rise, they still lag behind participation rates for the population as a whole. The growing clout of those groups is tied overwhelmingly to population growth.

If you know the history of disenfranchisement in the African-American community, this is a pretty amazing milestone. I continue to think — and I’m not alone in this — that Republican sowed the wind with voter suppression tactics and reaped the whirlwind. Far from taking the edge off African-American turnout, which was the intent, it mobilized these voters to historic levels.