Black Women, Hispanics Fuel Voter Turnout in 2008

Hope Yen, AP, April 30, 2009

Nearly one-fourth of voters in last November’s election were minorities, the most diverse election ever, fueled by high turnout from black women and a growing Hispanic population, an independent research group found.

The study by the Pew Research Center, released Thursday, also showed that for the first time blacks had the highest voter turnout rate of any racial or ethnic group among people ages 18 to 29. {snip}

Pew’s analysis of census data found that whites cast about 100 million, or 76 percent, of the 131 million total ballots last November, compared with 79 percent in 2004. It was the sharpest percentage drop in more than a decade.

Blacks, meanwhile, had their sharpest increase in voter participation in more than a decade, with 15.9 million casting ballots to make up 12.1 percent of the electorate. Blacks previously had seen their share decline to 11 percent in 2004 after their low turnout in Republican George W. Bush’s re-election win over Democrat John Kerry.

But in 2008, about 65 percent of blacks went to the polls, nearly matching the 66 percent voting rate for whites. Black women had the highest rates of participation among all voters at 69 percent; they were followed by white women (68 percent), white men (64 percent) and black men (61 percent).

Hispanics also had gains in voting share, mostly due to their rapidly growing population. In 2008, about 9.7 million, or half of Hispanics eligible to vote, cast ballots. They made up about 7.4 percent of the total voters, a jump from 6 percent in 2004.

Due to immigration and high birth rates, the number of Hispanics eligible to vote rose by 21 percent from 2004 to 2008 to 19.5 million, compared with a 5 percent increase for the general population. {snip}

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Other findings:

* Among voters 18-29, blacks had the strongest participation rate in last November’s election at 58 percent, compared with 51 percent overall in that age group. Blacks were followed by whites (52 percent), Asians (43 percent) and Hispanics (41 percent).

* The greatest increases in turnout were in Southern states with large black populations who were eligible to vote: Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana, as well as the District of Columbia.

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* About 47 percent of Asians, or 3.3 million, voted in 2008. They made up about 2.5 percent of total voters, up slightly from 2004.

The Pew analysis is based on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, which asked respondents after Election Day about their voting registration and turnout. The figures for “white” refer to the whites who are not of Hispanic ethnicity.

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