The Census Bureau’s final report on the 2012 presidential election which was just published last week contained enough surprising information to draw delight from liberals and dire warnings from conservatives. Although the total voter participation rated declined only slightly between 2008 and 2012, from 63.6 percent to 61.8 percent, the voting rate by blacks exceeded the voting rate by whites for the first time since the bureau started reporting presidential election results in 1996. Another surprising note: The actual number of white voters declined for the first time, from 100 million to 98 million.

The Washington Post said the report “produced another demographic milestone” in how changing voting patterns among whites, blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are impacting presidential elections and what the implications are for future elections between the Democratic and Republican parties. The combination of higher turnouts among Hispanics and blacks and reduced turnout by whites was sufficient to reelect the president in 2012.

In 2012 white voters represented 73.7 percent of the total vote while blacks and Hispanics represented almost 22 percent. In 1996 white voters represented 82.5 percent of the total vote while blacks and Hispanics combined represented just over 15 percent. Even though just 39 percent of whites voted for the incumbent in 2012, 71 percent of Hispanic voters and 93 percent of black voters did, more than enough to give President Obama a decisive victory over his Republican rival, Mitt Romney. The participation rate by blacks surprised Brookings Institution demographer William Frey, who said: “They persevered. This [was] an important time for them. They were very much responsible for reelecting Barack Obama.”

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