November 1st, 2012 | Posted in Race Ethnicity
by Carl Haub, senior demographer
With the 2012 presidential election just around the corner, I took a look at past elections to see how many U.S. residents actually vote. Less than two-thirds of Americans of voting age vote and the trend has been slightly downward in recent elections. Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey tracks voting in presidential elections by variables such as age group and ethnicity. Given the media’s attention to voting behavior of racial/ethnic groups, let’s look at what has happened in the past as a possible prelude to this year’s election. For two groups, white non-Hispanics and blacks, voter participation has been the highest and in 2008 was above the national average. The graph shows those who reported voting as a percentage of the total population of the groups, ages 18 and over. For Asians and Hispanics, turnout is only about one-third. By state, Minnesota, Maine, and New Hampshire had the highest rate of turnout among the total voting-age population (70.8, 70.2, and 69.8 percent, respectively) and Utah, Texas, and Hawaii the lowest (50.5, 48.8, and 46.8 percent, respectively).
Voter participation, of course, is greatly affected by citizenship and registration. In 2008, 98 percent of the white non-Hispanic voting-age group were citizens, 74 percent had registered, and 90 percent of those voted. By contrast, 66 percent of the Hispanic voting-age group were citizens, 59 percent had registered, and 84 percent of those voted. The pie chart shows the distribution of votes cast in 2008 by ethnic group. But national totals can take a back seat to state-level figures because the ethnic distribution of states varies. In California, 26 percent of eligible voters are Hispanic, the same proportion as in Texas. Both states have large numbers of votes in the Electoral College: 55 and 38, respectively.
Some food for thought as you make your own predictions for the upcoming election.