by Frederick H. Lowe
African-American voters played a key role in President Barack Obama’s re-election by voting in higher numbers than they did four years earlier, according to Dr. David Bositis, senior research associate for the Joint Center for Political and Education Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank for black elected officials.
“They were absolutely crucial to President Obama in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida and Virginia,” Bositis said on Wednesday at a discussion in Washington, D.C.
In Michigan, black voters comprised 16 percent of the total number of voters, which was up from a 12 percent share in 2008, when President Obama first ran for the White House. In Ohio, black voters comprised 15 percent of all of the state’s voters, up from 11 percent in 2008.
“Black voters provided Obama with the margin of victory in Ohio,” Bositis said. “Ninety-seven percent of black voters voted for Obama. It was impressive.”
In Virginia, African Americans comprised 20 percent of state’s vote, and 93 percent of blacks voted for the president, Bositis said.
In North Carolina and Florida, the turnout among black voters was the same as in 2008, which was 23 percent and 13 percent respectively. But the overall voter turnout in both states was higher in 2012 than it was in 2008, Bositis explained.
“I would remind you that we witnessed a large increase in the overall turnout, and the only way blacks’ share of the vote stayed the same was to increase their turnout,” he said.
President Obama won all of the swing states, capturing 306 Electoral College votes to Republican Mitt Romney’s 206 Electoral College votes.
Bositis noted that the 2012 presidential election will be the last campaign in which a major political party will be elected by appealing only to the non-Hispanic white vote.
“2012 was a clear showing that this is multi-racial, multi-ethnic country and that for a political party or a political movement to become successful, they are going to have to appeal to a much broader swath than non-Hispanic whites,” Bositis said.
President Obama lost the overall white vote to Romney, 59 percent to 39 percent.
“If this would have occurred years ago, it would have been catastrophic,” said Bositis, adding that President Obama still won the popular vote by 2 percentage points.
Bositis added that the non-Hispanic white vote declined from 2004 to 2012, while the African American, Hispanic and Asian vote increased.
At the same time, non-Hispanic whites are older on average than other racial/ethnic groups. The median age for non-Hispanic whites is 42 years, compared with a median age of 33 for African Americans and 25 for Hispanics.
Although President Obama lost the overall white vote, he won the majority of the white vote in all six New England states. The president also defeated Romney in Massachusetts, where he lives. Besides Massachusetts, the New England States are: Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
“He won the white vote in Vermont and Maine. He didn’t win Vermont and Maine with a majority of the black vote,” said Bositis, pointing out that the two states have very small black populations. Although President Obama won the majority white vote in eight states this year, he won a majority white vote in 16 states in 2008.
In Alabama and Mississippi, the president received a very small share of the white vote: 15 percent in Alabama and 10 percent in Mississippi.
“There are places where race is much more of a problem,” Bositis said.