- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2009

Minorities made up almost a quarter of the voters in November’s election, the most diverse electorate ever, featuring a high turnout by black women and a growing Hispanic population, an independent research group found.

The study by the Pew Research Center, released Thursday, also showed that for the first time blacks had the highest voter turnout rate of any racial or ethnic group among people aged 18 to 29. Analysts said it was unclear whether the strong minority participation, a reflection of both changing U.S. demographics and enthusiasm for Democrat Barack Obama, would carry over to future elections.

Pew’s analysis of census data found that whites cast about 100 million, or 76 percent, of the 131 million total ballots in November, compared with 79 percent in 2004. It was the sharpest percentage drop in more than a decade.

Blacks, meanwhile, had their sharpest increase in voter participation in more than a decade, with 15.9 million casting ballots to make up 12.1 percent of the electorate. Blacks previously had seen their share decline to 11 percent in 2004 in Republican George W. Bush’s re-election win over Democrat John Kerry.

But in 2008, about 65 percent of blacks went to the polls, nearly matching the 66 percent voting rate for whites. Black women had the highest rates of participation among all voters at 69 percent; they were followed by white women (68 percent), white men (64 percent) and black men (61 percent).

Hispanics also had gains in voting share, mostly due to their rapidly growing numbers. In 2008, about 9.7 million, or half of Hispanics eligible to vote, cast ballots. They made up about 7.4 percent of the total voters, a jump from 6 percent in 2004.

Because of immigration and high birth rates, the number of Hispanics eligible to vote rose by 21 percent from 2004 to 2008 to 19.5 million, compared with a 5 percent increase for the general population. The fastest-growing minority group, Hispanic voters helped Mr. Obama win closely contested states such as Colorado, Florida, Nevada and New Mexico.

“Moving into the future, we’re going to see a much more diverse electorate,” said Mark Hugo Lopez, associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center, who co-wrote the report. “Among youths generally and black youths in particular, we have seen an increase in voter participation since 2000, and there’s generally been more civic engagement such as volunteering.”

Other findings:

• The greatest increases in turnout were in Southern states with large voting-age black populations - Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana, as well as the District of Columbia.

• Women widened their turnout edge over men. In 2008, about 65.7 percent of women cast ballots - more than four percentage points higher than the 61.5 percent rate for men. In 2004, 65.4 percent of women voted compared with 62.1 percent for men.

• About 47 percent of Asian-Americans, or 3.3 million, voted in 2008. They made up about 2.5 percent of total voters, up slightly from 2004.

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