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In a first, black voter turnout surpassed white turnout in 2012

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During the 2012 campaign, politicos and pundits argued about whether the minority vote was the key to winning the election. Of all eligible voters in the US, 71 percent are white, 12 percent are black, 11 percent are Hispanic, 4 percent are Asian, and 2 percent other. But the number of minority voters matters less than their turnout rate, Dr. Frey told the Monitor in September.

“It depends on what degree minority voters’ enthusiasm and turnout balances the white voters’ enthusiasm and turnout,” Frey said.

Overall voter turnout declined from 62 percent in 2008 to 58 percent in 2012. White voters cast 72 percent of the total votes in 2012, down from 74 percent in 2004. That lower turnout rate accounted for 2 million to 5 million fewer white voters at the polls in 2012.

Black voters accounted 13 percent of the total votes cast in 2012, a repeat of 2008 – the first election in which their share of the total vote was larger than their share of the total population. States with significant black populations did not have as much of a decline in voter turnout as other states, said Michael McDonald, an associate professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., who reviewed the analysis.

“The 2012 turnout is a milestone for blacks and a huge potential turning point,” Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University who has written extensively on black politicians, told the Associated Press. “What it suggests is that there is an 'Obama effect' where people were motivated to support Barack Obama. But it also means that black turnout may not always be higher, if future races aren't as salient.”

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