WASHINGTON - Making history, America's blacks voted at higher rates than whites in 2012, lifting Democrat Barack Obama to victory amid voter apathy, particularly among young people, new census data show. Despite increasing population, the number of white voters declined for the first time since 1996.
Blacks were the only race or ethnic group to show an increase in voter turnout in November, most notably in the Midwest and Southeast, the Census Bureau said Wednesday. The analysis, based on a sample survey of voters last year, is viewed as the best source of government data on turnout by race and ethnicity.
The Associated Press reported last week that black voter turnout surpassed whites for the first time, based on an analysis by experts of earlier data.
In all, about 66.2 percent of eligible black voters cast ballots in 2012, up from 64.7 percent in 2008, according to census data. That compares with non-Hispanic white turnout of 64.1 percent, which fell from 66.1 percent four years earlier. As recently as 1996, blacks had turnout rates 8 percentage points lower than non-Hispanic whites.
Latino turnout dipped slightly, from 49.9 percent in 2008 to 48 percent, while Asian American turnout was basically unchanged at 47 percent.
Voter turnout across all race and ethnic groups fell for a second consecutive presidential election, from 64 percent in 2004 to 62 percent in November, according to the census figures.
While Hispanics are now the fastest-growing demographic group, they make up a smaller share of eligible voters because many are children and noncitizens, limiting their electoral impact for the immediate future.
In 2012, the number of blacks who voted rose by 1.7 million. Hispanics added 1.4 million and Asian voters increased by 550,000.
Meanwhile, even though the white population is slowly increasing, the number of white voters dropped by two million - the first drop in absolute terms for any race or ethnic group since 1996.
By age, youth enthusiasm for voting fizzled in 2012.
About 41 percent of voters age 18 to 24 cast ballots in November, down 7 percentage points from 2008. The drop was greatest among whites, whose turnout fell from 49 percent to 42 percent. But young black voters also saw big declines, from 55 percent in 2008 to 49 percent. That's compared with a decline among young Hispanics from 39 percent to 34 percent.
The only subgroups showing increases in voter turnout were among blacks ages 45 to 64 as well as those 65 and older.
In other census findings:
The gender gap in voting persists, a trend since 1996. About 64 percent of women voted, compared with 60 percent of men.
Declines in turnout also were seen most notably among single people, the unemployed, renters, and those with only a high school education or some college, suggesting in part voter disenchantment amid a sluggish economy.