Monday, April 29, 2013

Who votes?

There's a story from the Associated Press making the rounds over this past weekend headlined "Black Voter Turnout Passed White Turnout For The First Time In 2012." The story doesn't offer any concrete numbers, but I interpret that to mean that, nationally, a higher percentage of eligible African-Americans voted relative to the overall numbers of possible Black voters than eligible whites voted relative to their overall numbers.

Is this a new story? I'm not convinced that it is. Because the writing is not very clear, it is possible that something new happened last fall because Barack Obama was on the ballot, but I'm not so sure. There have been previous studies of the electorate that have produced similar findings. For example, this depiction of the demographics of the 1996 California electorate suggests that Blacks voted in greater numbers than their raw proportion of the state's population in that year. (So did whites, by a lot, that year; evidently Asian-Americans and Latinos were not voting or not eligible because of age or immigration status.)
Fast forward 12 years and consider this:
When all other factors are held equal (e.g., once the impact of age, duration of residence, region of residence, sex, educational attainment, and family income are all held constant), the odds of voting in 2008 were about twice as high for Blacks as they were for the non-Hispanic Whites reference group (2.3:1).
The real story here is that, when they can, Black people vote.

Maybe last year this happened because Blacks identify with Barack Obama, but the phenomenon long precedes his rise. Maybe Blacks are raised to remember that their grandparents fought for the right to cast a ballot. Maybe Blacks cling to a belief that has become uncommon among white citizens, a belief that the doings of government is essential to our collective well-being.

The conclusion remains simple: when they able to, Black people vote.

1 comment:

Classof65 said...

Isn't that wonderful? Now if we could only motivate every eligible voter to vote...

But, do I really want that? I want informed, intelligent voters -- and, of course, I want them all to be liberals. If the young people, whom I believe to be more liberal than some of their elders, would vote, we'd already have gay marriage, better social programs, jobs for everyone who wants one, don't you think?

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