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May 09, 2013 11:12 AM Still Sifting Through the 2012 Election Data

By Ed Kilgore

There’s a natural tendency to get a “take” on any given election from what we hear immediately afterwards, which sometimes makes us miss important later findings. And while there’s nothing earthshaking in the Census Bureau’s report on the 2012 elections, there were some nuances worth noting, as Pew’s Paul Taylor and Mark Hugo Lopez note.

One is that the much-discussed phenomenon of black turnout catching up with and exceeding white turnout in 2012 shouldn’t be attributed entirely to Barack Obama’s presence on the ballot. Black turnout in presidential elections has been increasing steadily since 1996, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue that pattern in 2016 even if both major-party tickets lack an African-American candidate.

A second finding of note is that although it seems the “youth vote” (as defined as under-30 voters) held steady, the Census Bureau indicates that turnout among 18-24 year-olds—first-time or second-time voters—actually declined from 48.5% in 2008 to 41.2% in 2012. That could be a bad sign for “youth turnout” in 2016.

In any event, as Earl Weaver always said, it’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

Comments

  • Tlaloc on May 09, 2013 12:34 PM:

    "One is that the much-discussed phenomenon of black turnout catching up with and exceeding white turnout in 2012 shouldn’t be attributed entirely to Barack Obama’s presence on the ballot."

    It's hard to make a strong case for this. Yes there were five data points in a row of increasing participation but two of those were 2008 and 2012. If 2008 had been back down the rise from 1996 (a low) to 2004 would appear to be nothing more than typical variation on the same scale as the change from 1988 to 1992.

    In other words from the data we have we can't really say whether it was a sustained growth or if the Obama bump just happened to come at a cyclical high point.