A new report on voting in the 2012 presidential election found that blacks in New Jersey, like those across the nation, turned out in greater percentages than any other racial or ethnic group and the youngest voters, those age 18 through 24, turned out in the smallest numbers.
The report by the U.S. Census Bureau released on Wednesday said that a greater percentage of eligible blacks voted than whites for the first time since officials began publishing voting statistics in 1996. Nationally, two in three eligible blacks voted in the presidential election, which was slightly higher than the 64.1 percent of non-Hispanic whites. In New Jersey, 68.5 percent of eligible African Americans voted, compared with 63.4 percent of whites.
James Harris, president of the New Jersey State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said that is not surprising, given both the enthusiasm that many blacks had for President Obama’s candidacy and the threats in several states to make it more difficult for some to vote; for instance, by requiring voters to show photo identification before being allowed to cast ballots.
“Of course there was a great deal of excitement about President Obama,” Harris said. “Also, given the threats about taking that vote away, people wanted to go out and make their voices heard.”
African-Americans were the only racial or ethnic group that showed a significant increase in voting between 2008 and 2012, according to the report, The Diversifying Electorate — Voting Rates by Race and Hispanic Origin in 2012. Black voting rates have risen 13 percentage points nationwide since 1996. On the other hand, the percentage of eligible non-Hispanic whites dropped by 2 percent between 2008 and 2012. Overall, the percentage of eligible citizens who voted declined from 63.6 percent in 2008 to 61.8 percent last November.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau report
“Blacks have been voting at higher rates, and the Hispanic and Asian populations are growing rapidly, yielding a more diverse electorate,” said Thom File, a sociologist with the Census Bureau and author of the report. “Over the last five presidential elections, the share of voters who were racial or ethnic minorities rose from just over one in six in 1996 to more than one in four in 2012.”
The report also found a continuing gender gap in voting. In every presidential election since 1996, women have voted at higher rates than men. In 2012, the spread was about 4 percentage points nationally. In New Jersey, 56.7 percent of eligible women voted, compared with 52.1 percent of men.
There was a large decline in youth voting in 2012, according to the report. In New Jersey, just under 35 percent of those age 18 to 24 voted, compared with almost 49 percent of those 25 to 44 and more than 60 percent of those age 45 and older.
The population survey, from which the report drew its data, also quantified what New Jerseyans knew was true: At least some of the lower voter turnout in the state was influence by Superstorm Sandy and the confusion over changed polling locations due to flooding and power outages, as well as the dislocation of residents from damaged or dark homes. In the Northeast region, the reasons people gave for not voting included: out of town, 8.7 percent; not interested, 17.2 percent; transportation problems, 3.9 percent. Of the four regions of the nation, bad weather conditions was cited most by far in the northeast, by 3.5 percent of those not voting.
Roughly 67 percent of those registered voted in New Jersey last November, compared with 73 percent four years earlier.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau report