The Common Good

Who Voted?

One of the big questions before Tuesday’s election was whether Barack Obama could replicate the diverse coalition of voters responsible for his 2008 victory. The news? He did. As Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza, put it: “In 2012, communities of color, young people and women are not merely interest groups, they’re the ‘new normal’ demographic of the American electorate.”

Here’s a snapshot of the numbers taken from initial CNN exit polls.

Women – 53% of voters - Obama 55%, Romney 44%

The new Senate in January will have 20 women — the highest number in history, 20. Sixteen are democrats and four republicans. All six Senate democratic women facing voters won re-election, along with four new ones. Not all House races are final, but it appears the new House will have 61 democratic women and 21 republican.

People age 18-29 – 19% of voters – Obama 60%, Romney 37%

Despite claims that young people lacked the enthusiasm of four years ago, 19 percent of voters were in that age group – up 1 percent from 2008. But 6 percent fewer voted for the president than four years ago when he attracted 66 percent. Their concern, like many others, is the economy – 12 percent of this age group is unemployed.

White – 72% of voters – Obama 39%, Romney 59%

African-American – 13% of voters – Obama 93%, Romney 6%

Latino – 10% of voters – Obama 71%, Romney 27%

Asian – 3% of voters – Obama 73%, Romney 26%

The white percentage of the electorate is steadily declining. In 2008 it was 74 percent, in 2004 it was 77 percent. The Washington Post’s Peter Wallsten predicts this will lead to “an extended period of internal strife over how a party that skews toward older white men can compete in an increasingly diverse nation.” The African-American share is the same as 2008 at 13 percent, white Latino voters ticked up from 9 percent and Asian from 2 percent.

People who attend religious services weekly – 42% of voters - Obama 39%, Romney 59%

Protestants – 53% of voters – Obama 42%, Romney 57%

Catholics – 25% of voters – Obama 50%, Romney 48%

Jewish – 2% of voters – Obama 69%, Romney 30%

Other – 7% of voters – Obama 74%, Romney 26%

None – 12% of voters – Obama 70%, Romney 26%

The religious divide is growing. Michelle Boorstein and Scott Clement of the Post drilled down and concluded:

“Overall, the faith groups that traditionally support Republicans — people who identify as white Christians, including evangelicals, or as Catholics who attend church frequently — went for Romney in even stronger numbers than they did for McCain in 2008. The gains, however, weren’t enough to turn the tide in Romney’s favor, in part because those groups are a smaller portion of the electorate than they used to be.” 

The Pew Forum has a detailed preliminary analysis of the exit polling.

Overall, Ronald Brownstein’s conclusion in The Atlantic sums it up:

“In many places, particularly across the Sun Belt, Obama mobilized the Democrats' new "coalition of the ascendant," winning enough support among young people, minorities and college-educated whites, especially women, to overcome very weak numbers among blue-collar whites and college-educated men. But in the upper Midwest, where there are not enough of those voters to win, Obama attracted just enough working-class whites to hold the critical battlegrounds of Wisconsin, Iowa, and above all Ohio against Mitt Romney's forceful challenge.”

Duane Shank is Senior Policy Adviser for Sojourners.

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