Pew: Black turnout rate may have surpassed white for first time in 2012

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In 2012, for the first time in U.S. history, blacks may have voted at a higher rate than whites in a presidential election, the Pew Research Center says.

While the Hispanic and Asian shares of the vote have risen of late largely because of population growth, blacks have increased their share because their turnout rate has risen, Pew says in a report (.pdf) released Dec. 26.

Precise turnout figures won't be available until the Census Bureau publishes the results of its post-election survey in a few months. But, Pew says, circumstantial evidence suggests the black turnout rate may have eclipsed the white rate.

The black turnout rate has increased in every presidential election since 1996, hitting 65.2 percent in 2008. That nearly matched whites' 66.1 percent turnout rate that year, which was down from 2004.

Exit polling, though less reliable than the Census survey, has shown tentatively that blacks and whites each comprised a slightly higher share of the 2012 vote than their shares of those eligible to vote.

In addition to the candidacy of the first black president, several states' new voter-identification laws, which some critics said were tools to suppress minority voters, may have galvanized black turnout.

A sampling of heavily black and heavily white cities and counties showed no clear pattern from 2008 to 2012, so until the Census figures come out, it remains to be seen whether the milestone of higher black than white turnout was indeed hit in 2012.

Hispanic and Asian turnout rates have both been on the rise since 2000, topping out at 49.9 and 47 percent, respectively, in the 2008 election, Census figures show.

For more:
- download the report, "The Growing Electoral Clout of Blacks Is Driven by Turnout, Not Demographics" (.pdf)

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