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The Next America - Politics 2012

THE NEXT AMERICA

Minority Voters To Play Big Role in Presidential Election

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If voter turnout among whites is strong and minorities weak, Mitt Romney would win the 2012 presidential election, according to a Brookings Institute demographic analysis.((AP Photo/Tony Gutierre))

Minority voter participation will play an important role in picking the winner of this year’s presidential election, according to a new Census data analysis released on Wednesday by the Brookings Institution.

President Obama’s reelection is even more dependent of minority support than in 2008, according to William Frey, a senior fellow at Brookings and the author of the analysis. But whether those voters and the country’s increasingly diverse population will give Obama and the

 

Minority voter participation will play an important role in picking the winner of this year’s presidential election, according to a new Census data analysis released on Wednesday by the Brookings Institution.

President Obama’s reelection is even more dependent of minority support than in 2008, said William Frey, a senior fellow at Brookings and the author of the analysis. But whether those voters and the country’s increasingly diverse population will give Obama and the Democrats the edge they need to win is not a foregone conclusion.

Demographics do not necessarily translate directly into votes, Frey points out in the analysis. And the nation’s still-large white population can play an outsized role in politics.

Although minority populations are growing rapidly, whites are more heavily represented among eligible voters than in the general population, according to the analysis. Of every 100 Hispanic residents in the country, only 44 are eligible voters. In contrast, 78 of every 100 white residents is eligible to vote. 

It also matters how many eligible minority voters and their white counterparts register and show up to vote. 

In the analysis, Frey offers three possible election scenarios based on the racial and ethnic makeup of eligible voters. In two simulations, Obama wins a second term. In a third, Romney moves into the White House.

The first simulation — the best-case scenario for Democrats — assumes that turnout and voting patterns will remain the same as in 2008 and applies that model to the 2012 population. In it, Obama wins by a landslide, taking 29 states and 358 electoral votes. In this scenario, he wins the same states he took in 2008; 10 of those state victories can be attributed to minority voters. 

In the second scenario — the best for Republicans — Romney wins with 286 electoral votes from 30 states. In this case, Frey applied 2004 voter patterns to today’s population. In this scenario, white support for Republicans is stronger than in the first.

But it’s a combination of those scenarios that Frey believes most closely reflects what the election this fall will look like. In this case, whites show up and vote as they did in 2004. Minorities do the same, but in the same ways they did four years later. The race is much closer, but Obama squeaks by — taking 292 electoral votes to Romney’s 246. Most of Obama’s electoral votes are attributable to minority voters. 

The scenarios show that minority voters are going to matter in this election,  Frey says. What will determine the outcome is minority voters' enthusiasm, even in interior states with largely white electorates.

If these elections were subject to the same rules as the previous two, Frey’s analysis would be “dead on,” said Maria Teresa Kumar, president of Voto Latino, an organization that encourages Latinos to register to vote.

 

“But now the rules have changed,” she said. “There’s a wrench in all of this and that’s the voter ID laws that were not in place.”

Kumar worries that the new regulations, which include tougher voter identification requirements and more rules on how voter drives can be carried out, will make it difficult for people - including Latinos, blacks and the elderly - to vote.

"Whether the president gets re-elected depends on whether the people who want to participate and go to the polls are able to participate,” she said.

 

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