Will strong turnout by minority voters lock up the November election for President Barack Obama? Or will the enthusiasm of the 2010 midterms carry over to boost white voter turnout, helping the Republican nominee? William H. Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, examines that question in a new paper.
The minority vote in 2008 played a decisive role for Mr. Obama both nationally and in several key states. He lost the white vote but outperformed among all other races. In North Carolina, where Mr. Obama won by a mere 14,000 votes, African Americans accounted for nearly a quarter of the electorate, and 95% of them voted for Mr. Obama, according to exit polls. Minority voters also helped push Mr. Obama over the top in Indiana, Virginia and New Mexico, while expanding his margins in big states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Indeed in 2008, the paper notes, turnout by African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans was a few percentage points higher in each group than in 2004 (65% in 2008 vs. 60% in 2004; 50% vs. 47%; and 47% vs. 44% respectively for each group), while white turnout was one point less (66% vs. 67%).
Also, the margin of votes for the Democrats among minority groups, already sizable in 2004, expanded greatly in 2008. That is, more minorities were voting, and those votes were much more heavily Democratic. For white voters, which lean toward Republicans, the margin narrowed, but was still in the Republican column. In short, white turnout slumped, and whites who did vote voted less Republican than four years earlier.
With this as background, Mr. Frey poses the question:
As we approach November, minorities will account for a slightly larger share of eligible voters than in 2008. At the same time, white support for the Republican candidate may be greater than in 2008. Which dynamic will prevail?
He has three scenarios:
Scenario A assumes that the 2008 turnout and voting patterns again apply to 2012 voters. If that occurs, Obama wins with 29 states and 358 electoral votes. (270 electoral votes are needed to win.)
Scenario B applies 2004 turnout and voting patterns to the 2012 population. In this scenario, Mr. Romney beats Mr. Obama, with 286 electoral votes in 30 states.
Scenario C assumes strong partisan participation for both whites and minorities in 2012. This scenario is perhaps the most likely of the three, says Mr. Frey. In this scenario, whites in each state are assumed to have more enthusiasm for the GOP nominee (likely Mitt Romney) in 2012 than in 2008 (John McCain) and as a result will mimic their 2004 patterns. Meanwhile, minorities are presumed to follow their strong 2008 turnout and voting margins. In this scenario, Mr. Obama wins, narrowly, with 292 electoral votes spread among 24 states.
Read more: The Wall Street Journal
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