Census 2012 vote data highlight dramatic shift in racial diversity of American electorate

New data from the November 2012 U.S. Census Current Population Survey (CPS) reveals a major shift in the U.S. voting population, with the number of White, non-Hispanic voters declining by more than 2 million from 2008 to 2012.  In contrast, the number of Latino, African American and Asian American voters increased by a combined 3.7 million in just 4 years.  During the run up to the 2012 election many notable pollsters and pundits failed to observe the changing demographics of the American electorate, with some such as Gallup forecasting as many as 80% of all voters would be White, after which noted Political Scientist Alan Abromowitz predicted that, “Gallup’s likely voter sample appears to be substantially under-representing non-white voters,” two weeks before election day. Building on the analysis by Abramowitz, Latino Decisions posted a lengthy report in October 2012 about how most polls were missing the growing Latino electorate.

Now that the Census has released its official estimates the data are clear: the Latino, Black and Asian vote are growing at a historic pace, and for the first time in history the raw number of White votes declined from one election to the next.  These changes are not unique to 2012, but part of a larger and irreversible trend in American politics in which the electorate is becoming increasingly diverse.

From 2008 to 2012 the total number of votes cast among White, non-Hispanics changed from 100,042,000 to 98,041,000, a net drop of 2 million votes.  In contrast the number of Latino voters increased from 9,745,000 in 2008 to 11,188,000 in 2012, a net increase of 1.4 million and African American votes increased even more by nearly 1.7 million.  Asian American voters, which received considerable notice in 2012 for the first time grew by over half a million from 3,357,000 to 3,904,000.  In total, nearly 3.7 million more minority votes were cast in 2012, while White votes dropped by 2 million.

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The changes are even more dramatic comparing 2004 to 2012.  Although White votes increased slightly from 2004 to 2008, across eight years from 2004 to 2012, the number of Whites voting declined by 1.5 million. However the number of Black voters grew by almost 3.8 million in eight years, while the number of Latino voters grew by 3.6 million.  Asian Americans added 1.1 million voters, and combined, there were a staggering 8.5 million more minority voters in 2012 than in 2004.  While White voters are declining – a group Republicans won in both 2008 and 2012 by an average 57-41 in both years – Minority voters are growing by over 8 million – a group that Obama won in both 2008 and 2012 by an average 81-19 in both years.

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Beyond 2012

The trends identified in the November 2012 U.S. Census CPS will continue for some time to come.  Because of the comparatively young age of Latinos, Blacks, and Asians the minority population will only continue to increase as part of the eligible, and voting population.  On the other hand, White, non-Hispanics are much older, and are aging out of the electorate.  As of 2012, the median age of the White, non-Hispanic population was 42.3, while the media age for Asian Americans was about 9 years younger at 33.2, Blacks were over 11 years younger than Whites at 30.9, and Latinos were about 15 years younger at a median age at 27.6.  What’s more, the Census reported in 2012 that for the first time ever, a majority of all babies born in the U.S. were non-White.

The population dynamics are sure to change the American electorate beyond 2012 as the number of Latino, Black, and Asian voters continues to grow at a pace much faster than for Whites, who are likely to continue facing declines in their voting eligible population for years to come.

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