The Pew Research Center recently put out a report entitled "Dissecting the 2008 Electorate: Most Diverse in US History". This translates as the white percentage of total voters being the lowest it ever has been in a Presidential election. Recognizing the slow but steady relative reduction in the size of the white vote is nothing novel. It has been occuring for several decades, to the enormous benefit of the Democratic party.
What I found interesting was the level of voter participation relative to eligibility, by race. The following graph shows actual voters as a percentage of eligible voters, by race, on a relative scale for the population as a whole. That is, if the graph included a line for the entire electorate, it would be a perfectly horizontal with a y-value of 100. If in a given election cycle whites represent 80% of actual voters and 75% of eligible voters, they have a civic score of 107 ((80/75)*100). Whites are represented by the white line, blacks by the black line, Hispanics by the brown line, and Asians by the yellow line:
With the exception of the steady increase in civic-mindedness among blacks over the last couple of decades, the relative values are pretty steady. Hispanic and Asian electoral participation has consistently remained below that of blacks and whites for as long as reliable demographic data has been kept. This helps in understanding why, at over 15% of the US population, Hispanics make up less than half that proportion of actual voters (with age structure and illegal residency status completing the picture) and also why anything that facilitates casting a ballot will tend to be supported by Democrats and opposed by (non-politically suicidal) Republicans.
A few other noteworthy facts gleaned from the report:
- The percentage of eligible white males who voted in 2008 dropped to 64.2%, down from 65.9% in 2004. That 1.7 point decrease was more than three times larger than the decrease among white females, from 68.4% in 2004 to 67.9% in 2008. White men, the GOP's stalwarts, weren't inspired by what was offered them last November.
- Eligible black women were the most likely group to vote in 2008, and also the most inclined to vote for Obama.
- The male:female participation rate ratio by race follows the common 'hierarchical' pattern found in so many other measures of social variables. Male participation among eligible voters as a percentage of female participation among eligible voters, by race, averaged for the 2004 and 2008 elections:
Asians -- 95.1%
Whites -- 93.5%
Hispanics -- 91.6%
Blacks -- 88.2%
Fascinating how this 'ranking' manifests itself in so many ways.