President Obama’s second term in the White House was largely secured by record numbers of votes from ethnic minorities, while his popularity among whites plummeted, exit polls have revealed.
Hispanics, the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, accounted for ten per cent of all voters in the election, an increase on last year’s record of nine per cent, the polls suggested.
Of these, 71 per cent voted for Obama, up from 67 per cent in 2008. In a sign Republicans are failing to win over this increasingly influential group, Romney won just 27 per cent.
A record number of Asian voters – three per cent of the electorate – also turned out, with nearly three-quarters backing Obama. He also won a staggering 93 per cent of African-American votes.
Yet while his popularity among ethnic minorities swelled, he received just 39 per cent of the white votes, down by four per cent on the last election, a drop his campaign had anticipated.
Romney secured 59 per cent of the white vote – the largest majority achieved by any presidential candidate in U.S. history who then failed to win.
With Hispanics numbering 53 million in the U.S. – about 17 per cent of the population - the results show just how key their votes are to elections, and how Republicans are failing to win them over.
‘Our party needs to realise that it’s too old and too white and too male and it needs to figure out how to catch up with the demographics of the country before it’s too late,’ said Al Cardenas, the head of the American Conservative Union and a longtime GOP leader.
‘Our party needs a lot of work to do if we expect to be competitive in the near future.’
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican in Florida and possible 2016 presidential candidate, added: ‘The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities who are trying to make it, and Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them.’
Polls showed Hispanic voters trusted Obama on issues of jobs and the economy, and that they believed Democrats cared more for their votes.
This spells a crisis for Republicans, who have become more white in recent years.
In 2004, George W. Bush won 44 per cent of Hispanic votes. Four years later, this plummeted to 31 per cent for John McCain. And this year, Romney achieved just 27 per cent.
Hispanic voters were no doubt alienated by Romney’s tough stance against immigration in the primaries, calling for ‘self deportation’ and making life tough for undocumented immigrants.
He also vetoed the Dream Act, Obama’s 2010 bill to help undocumented youngsters. The president garnered support for his June decision to allow young immigrants to stay in the country.
Republicans tried. Romney touted his son Craig, who can speak fluent Spanish after carrying out missionary work in Chile, at campaign events, and Rubio held large Latino audiences.
Yet exit polls show the support nears that of the lowest percentage of Hispanic voters won by a Republican ever – when Bob Dole achieved just 21 per cent of their votes in 1996. The same year, Bill Clinton achieved the record high of 72 per cent of Hispanic votes.
‘Hispanics continue to grow in importance, and we need to embrace these voters for two reasons: It is simply the right thing to do, and it’s mandatory demographically if we are to avoid more presidential disappointments,’ former George W. Bush political director Matt Schlapp told Politico.
‘It’s about simple math and basic moral decency.’
Overall this year, white voters made up 72 percent of the electorate – less than four years ago – while black voters remained at 13 percent and Asian votes also increased from two to three per cent.
Of these Asian voters, nearly three-quarters cast their vote for Obama.
He also still leads among African Americans, gaining 93 per cent of votes, while just six per cent went to Romney. This support for Obama is slightly down from 95 per cent in 2008.
‘Clearly, when you look at African-American and Latino voters, they went overwhelmingly for the president,’ said John Stineman, a Republican strategist from Iowa. ‘And that’s certainly a gap that’s going to require a lot of attention from Republicans.’
The numbers fly in the face of GOP assumptions that the passing of the novelty of the first African-American president would trim Obama’s support from black voters.
‘Republicans have been saying for months’ that Obama’s black support would slip, Democratic pollster Paul Maslin said. ‘And what happens? When African-Americans had the chance to affirm him, they came out in droves.’
And during his victory speech Tuesday, Obama recognised the Democratic party he had perpetrated.
‘It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, or Hispanic or Asian, or Native American, or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight,’ he said. ‘You can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.’
Exit polls also back up the statement Republicans are ‘too old and too male’.
While Democrats won six out of ten votes cast by 18 to 29 year olds, the Republicans nabbed 56 per cent of voters over 65. Democrats accounted for just 44 per cent of this bracket.
Fifty-two per cent of men voted for Republicans, compared to just 44 per cent of women.
Obama scored a resounding electoral college win on Tuesday night – despite predictions of one of the tightest finishes in history.
Broadcast networks called the 2012 election at 11.15pm as Obama swept the map with wins in the swing states of Ohio, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Virginia.
Both Obama and Romney gave gracious speeches on hearing the results on Tuesday night, with the president calling for unity and setting out an optimistic vision of America’s future.
He promised ‘the best is yet to come’ and said the fierce battle with Romney had made him a better president, vowing: ‘I will return to the White House more determined and inspired than ever.’
In a speech that saw a return to the soaring rhetoric he has become known for since his election in 2008, Obama said he had ‘listened and learned’ from the American people during his campaign.
With his voice going hoarse at times, he said: ‘Progress comes in fits and starts’ and the road is littered with ‘difficult compromises.’ But he said he enters the next four years with an ‘economy recovering, a decade of war ending and a long campaign is over.’
He paid tribute to his opponent and hopes they can ‘work together in the coming weeks’. This bipartisanship had been echoed by Romney moments earlier during his concession speech.
Romney called for America to ‘put the people before politics’ and warned, ‘At a time like this we can’t risk partisan bickering and political posturing.’ He added, ‘I so wish that I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead this country in a different direction. But the nation chose another leader.’