2012: The Year Changing Demographics Caught Up With Republicans Posted on November 10, 2012 | Polling Analysis

The 2012 election marks the year when the inexorable march of demographic change caught up with the Republican Party. While multiple factors led to President Obama's reelection, none was as important as rapidly increasing demographic change in the American electorate. Mitt Romney won white voters by a landslide, 59 to 39 percent, in the process achieving the highest percentage of the white vote of any Republican challenging an incumbent president in the history of exit polling. Yet that was not enough to craft a majority of the popular vote.


Resurgent Republic's 2012 post-election survey polled 1000 likely voters nationally, starting on the night of the election, November 6, and concluding on Thursday, November 8. The results were weighted to conform to the popular vote outcome of 50 percent for Obama and 48 percent for Romney. Following are key highlights of the survey.

Structure of the Electorate from Exit Polls

  1. The 2012 electorate contained the smallest share of white voters and the largest share of nonwhite voters in American history. White voters constituted 72 percent of the electorate, down from 74 percent in 2008, 77 percent in 2004, and 81 percent in 2000. African-Americans made up the next largest share at 13 percent, the same as 2008, and up from 11 percent in 2004 and 10 percent in 2000. Hispanics constituted 10 percent of the electorate in 2012, compared to 9 percent in 2008, 8 percent in 2004, and 7 percent in 2000. Asian voters made up 3 percent of the 2012 electorate, an increase from 2 percent each in 2008, 2004, and 2000.
  2. Mitt Romney won a larger share of the white vote than either John McCain or George W. Bush. Romney defeated Obama by 59 to 39 percent among whites, compared to McCain winning whites by 55 to 43 percent over Obama in 2008, while Bush won whites by 58 to 41 percent over John Kerry in 2004 and by 54 to 42 percent over Al Gore in 2000.
  3. Mitt Romney won white voters in almost all demographic groups, usually by substantial margins. Romney's campaign was extremely successful at appealing to white voters across the board, and won almost all white groups except Jewish voters. In every group listed below, Romney's percentage in 2012 surpassed McCain's percentage in 2008.

  4. Romney lost among African-Americans by roughly the same margin as John McCain and by a greater margin than George W. Bush. Obama won African-American voters by 93 to 6 percent in 2012 and 95 to 4 percent in 2008. John Kerry defeated Bush among African-Americans by 88 to 11 percent in 2004, and Al Gore won among African-Americans by 90 to 9 percent in 2000.
  5. Romney lost Hispanic voters by a greater margin than either John McCain or George W. Bush. Obama defeated Romney among Hispanics by 71 to 27 percent in 2012, and he defeated McCain among Hispanics by 67 to 31 percent in 2008. Kerry defeated Bush among Hispanics by 53 to 44 percent in 2004, the high water mark for a Republican presidential candidate. Gore won the Hispanic vote over Bush in 2000 by 62 to 35 percent.
  6. Romney lost Asians by the greatest margin in recent history, and by a greater margin than he lost Hispanics. Obama won among Asians in 2012 by 73 to 26 percent, compared to 62 to 35 percent over McCain in 2008. Kerry defeated Bush among Asians in 2004 by 56 to 44 percent, while Gore defeated Bush among Asians in 2000 by 55 to 41 percent. Bob Dole was the last Republican presidential candidate to carry the Asian vote, winning 48 percent to 43 percent for Bill Clinton and 8 percent for Ross Perot in 1996.
  7. The partisan makeup of the electorate in 2012 was closer to 2008 than either 2004 or 2000. In 2012 Democrats outnumbered Republicans by six percentage points, 38 to 32 percent. That was close to the seven-point Democratic advantage in 2008 of 39 to 32 percent, and more than the even partisan breakdown in 2004 (37 percent each), or the four-point Democratic advantage of 39 to 35 percent in 2000.
  8. Romney won among Independents, but not by enough to overcome the Democratic advantage in the electorate. Romney won Independents by five points, 50 to 45 percent. But given the Democrats' six-point advantage in the electorate, his margin among Independents fell just short of what he needed to win a majority of the popular vote.

The Presidential Election

  1. Obama won among early voters, Romney won among absentee voters, and the candidates split evenly on Election Day. Among people who voted in person early, Obama won 58 to 41 percent. Among those who voted by absentee ballot, Romney won by almost as large a margin, 55 to 45 percent. Among people who voted on Election Day, the candidates split evenly at 49 percent each.
  2. Unlike most incumbent reelection campaigns, Obama won late deciders. Voters who are undecided late in a campaign usually break disproportionately for the challenger. For example, in 2004 voters who made up their minds in the last week (11 percent of all voters) voted for John Kerry over George W. Bush by 52 to 46 percent. But Obama broke that pattern this year. This post-election poll shows voters who decided "during the last week before the election, or on the day of the election" voted for Obama by 48 to 40 percent. Exit polls show the same pattern, with voters who decided "just today or in the last few days" (9 percent of all voters) voting for Obama by 50 to 44 percent.
  3. President Obama's handling of Hurricane Sandy appears to have had a modestly positive effect on late deciders. Obama's handling of the hurricane led 18 percent of all voters to say they were more likely to vote for him versus 8 percent who said they were less likely to support his reelection, with 73 percent saying it had no effect. But that result is not relevant for those voters who made up their minds before the hurricane struck on October 29, eight days before the election. While the number of respondents is small, in this survey among voters who made up their minds during the last week before the election, or on the day of the election, 15 percent said Obama's handling of the hurricane made them more likely to vote for him, 6 percent said less likely to vote for him, and 77 percent said it made no real difference in their vote. Obama's handling of Hurricane Sandy, and the publicity it garnered for him as a bipartisan leader in its aftermath, is the most likely explanation for why Obama broke the pattern of late deciders breaking for the challenger.
  4. By a two-to-one margin, Romney voters say they voted for Romney rather than against Obama. Fifty-five percent of Romney voters say they were voting primarily for Romney rather than against Obama.
  5. By an eight-to-one margin, Obama voters say th