Key subgroups of President Obama's winning coalition including Hispanics, young voters, and unmarried women outperformed their 2008 turnout levels, even though these cohorts exuded less enthusiasm to get to the polls than Governor Romney’s core supporters.
Many variables influence election turnout, and the impact of candidates and campaign messages should not be overlooked. This analysis and corresponding infographic focuses on voter enthusiasm on the eve of the election and the turnout percent change in recent presidential contests. Voter enthusiasm alone is not enough to significantly alter the demographic trends of the electorate.
18-29: Despite having low enthusiasm levels throughout the election, voters 18-29 had a 6 percent increase in turnout compared to 2008, up one-point overall to comprise 19 percent of the electorate. President Obama won the youth vote by more than 20 points (60 to 37 percent), but he did so by a smaller margin than 2008 (66 to 32 percent). Latino voters 18-29 propelled the increase among the youth vote, expanding to 4 percent of the overall electorate, while whites and African Americans equaled their 2008 levels.
Unmarried Women: the "war on women" is somewhat overstated as Republicans won among white women by a greater margin in 2012 than 2008, 56-42 and 53-46 respectively. Yet white women's share of the electorate is down 1 point since 2008, 3 points since 2004, and 14 points since 2000. As a key part of center-left coalition, unmarried women increased their share of the electorate from 2008 to 2012 by 10 percent, up two points overall to 23 percent. With two-thirds support in November, Democrats hold a commanding lead among this growing segment of the electorate.
Hispanics: The fastest growing minority group had an 11 percent increase in turnout compared to 2008, up one-point overall to 10 percent of the electorate. Republican support reached a high point in 2004, but has dropped by nearly 20 points over the past two presidential cycles. Meanwhile, the political influence of this voting bloc will increase exponentially as 50,000 Americans of Hispanic descent turn the age of 18 every month for the next two decades.
African-Americans: Turnout among the black community equaled the sizable percentage increase seen in 2008. From 2004 to 2008, the African-American vote saw an 18 percent change, going from 11 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2008. Unlike President Obama’s other coalition groups, African American voters were the most enthusiastic to turnout of all voting groups.
Seniors 65 and Older: Governor Romney did better among seniors by a net of four points compared to 2008. Yet despite being one of the most enthusiastic voting groups, seniors' share of the electorate remained the same as four years ago. In fact in four of the past five presidential elections, voters 65 and older comprised 16 percent of the electorate, with the lone exception of 14 percent in 2000.
White Evangelicals: this reliably conservative voting bloc recorded high enthusiasm levels during 2012, yet their share of the electorate equaled 26 percent in the past two presidential elections. Despite this equilibrium, Governor Romney won these voters by 78-21, a net 7-point improvement compared to 2008. This margin is identical to 2004.
Whites: Not only did Governor Romney outperform 2008 levels among all white voters by a net of 8 points, he also earned a positive net swing among each age group compared to four years ago: 18-29 (+17); 30-44 (+5); 45-64 (+9); and 65 and older (+4). Yet these margins were not enough because the 2012 electorate was less white, decreasing to 72 percent overall. There was a decline in the white vote among 30-44 year olds, from 20 percent in 2008 to 18 percent in 2012. Yet the overarching trend of a less white electorate will continue as Hispanics, Asian Americans, and other minority groups increase their political participation and the white vote continues to age (white seniors increased to 14 percent in 2012).
Read our complete post-election survey analysis here.