~10,000,000 Fewer Whites Voted in 2012 Than 2008 (Jay Cost)

Jay Cost counts up the racial breakdown and finds 10 million missing White Voters.  The question remains why did they not vote?

One of my intuitions was that the Democratic non-white vote would not rise very much this year because of the big jump in 2008, in particular in non-competitive states like Illinois, Mississippi, and California. Looking at the hard numbers, that turned out basically to be correct (although the Latino vote looks to have increased modestly).

What I did not anticipate was a steep drop in the white vote. My back of the envelope calculation suggests that the white vote was off by almost 10 million votes relative 2008. [This is the primary reason why Mitt Romney will end up winning fewer votes than John McCain, but have a larger share of the total electorate.]

So, the polls that showed a big Obama edge, often due to a loose likely voter screen, were right for an ironic reason. Turnout was down, suggesting a tighter screen would have been better, but because turnout was down so substantially among whites, the actual electorate looked a lot like more like the broader population than it has in years past (even in 2008). Thus, a loose screen produced the better reflection of the voting public.

A tip of the cap to those who figured it would go the other way. Job well done!


  1. Fred S
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:04 am | Permalink | Reply

    That is truly amazing. Obama did not win this election by ramping up his base, his core groups were down, the Republicans lost it.
    Why the Republicans could not turn out their base is truly mind boggling, considering the great enthusiasm shown on the campaign trail. Could it be that the evangelicals were reluctant to vote for a Mormon? I hope that someone can figure this one out.

    • edtitan77
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink | Reply

      We speculated Wednesday that evangelicals stayed home but doesn’t appear to be the case.

    • magnacarta1297
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 4:51 pm | Permalink | Reply

      What is the probability of fraud, i.e. destroyed ballots, switched names etc to yield the discrepancy?

    • Mark
      Posted November 11, 2012 at 4:21 am | Permalink | Reply

      Obama did keep his core base: chiefly young voters, single women, Hispanics, blacks. The reason Romney lost is not bc whites didn’t turn out, it’s bc Romney didn’t cut into any of Obama’score groups. To pretend that the problem here is due to Romney not turning people out into willfully ignore the facts. Romneyhithis turnout numbers. The problem was that Obama hit his as well.

  2. John
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    So in the final analysis the much hyped republican GOTV effort was a massive fail. ORCA is said to have basically crashed and burned due to technical glitches. Robo calls don’t work if they are even answered. We need to start pounding on doors, rounding people up and bussing them to the polls, and above all push, push, push, the early voting like the Dems do. Priebus assumed puting technology to work for GOTF was the answer and he was wrong.

    • William Jefferson Jr.
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink | Reply

      Did it fail in the battlegrounds, though? That’s where it was concentrated. Yes, Republican voters in California may have stayed home but who cares? Romney did better than McCain in the battlegrounds.

  3. PeterJ
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink | Reply

    What is really needed is a detailed demographic breakdown that especially emphasizes males by age/decade. Working class Joe (male), 20s-40s age range, is probably who especially did not show up outside the deep red states. The republican party, using Trende’s analysis by Ohio counties, should pay for an ongoing survey by polling companies to find out exactly what is going on in Ohio specifically. It is easy for GOTV to miss those guys when they concentrate on the elderly, church goers or other more easily identified and contacted groups. Urban democratic machines are successful for reasons beyond ethnic identities, especially because it is easier to contact neighbors than in suburban or rural areas.

    The screen for such a survey is simple: did you vote? If no, please tell us why not and which candidate you would have supported if your life depended on it.

  4. Plan B
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink | Reply

    could be, but seems unlikely. all the metrics and sampling before the election showed historic GOP enthusiasm. So what was it? Vote fraud? Why would enthusiasm not translate into votes?

  5. wholefoodsrepublican
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:24 am | Permalink | Reply


    read it… if we fail to understand this and capture the hispanic vote, we are toast, and the american exceptionalism is over.

    • edtitan77
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:53 am | Permalink | Reply

      I agree but the risk here is that NonCuban Hispanics mostly lean left anyway. So all we are doing is increasing the amount of eligible voters who will vote Dem. one of the worst showings the GOP had with Hispanics came the during the 1st election after Reagan’s amnesty.

      Still I guess amnesty has to be done.

      • William Jefferson Jr.
        Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:46 am | Permalink

        I’m not so sure amnesty needs to be done. Increasing the pool of the poor and uneducated increases the pool of Democratic voters. As Hispanics age and increase their income, they will become more conservative. That’s what Democrats fear–they need to keep a fresh wave of dependent Hispanics coming into the country.

  6. MassLiberty
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:27 am | Permalink | Reply

    We can marvel all we want about how the republican vote mysteriously didn’t come out…or we can face the reality that they came out, but were not counted. Occam’s razor

    • stuckinmass
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:24 am | Permalink | Reply

      Is there a way to compare the ballot totals to who was checked in to vote to prove/disprove that they weren’t counted?

  7. edtitan77
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink | Reply

    Looks like earlier assessment of evangelical staying home was incorrect. I hate to cite the NY Times but they still do quality work. Anyway I recall some stories they did about voters and what was evident is that young downscale whites seem to have checked out.

    They don’t like Obama but weren’t going to go for Romney either. I guess from their perspective they’re screwed either way so it really doesn’t matter.

    Still they represent a big opportunity for the GOP if they can be engaged.

  8. rcl_in_va
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink | Reply

    Also posted on previous thread, but same topic. This blog is named battleground watch for a reason. There were only perhaps 10 states in play. How did the white vote turn out in these states individually? Was the GOP GOTV focused on these only and, if so, how well or poorly did that perform. Does anyone have a handle on that?

    • Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:28 am | Permalink | Reply

      The problem right now is it is guesswork. Trende did that in a macro-scale and a stab at Ohio but votes trickling in and absentees still getting counted it is tough to draw clear conclusions beyond those big picture ones we’re already seeing.

  9. Luis
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:10 am | Permalink | Reply

    I have no doubt that Governor Chris Christie big tv ad. praising and honoring, Obama’s/Christie/Bloomberg/Cuomo’s failures responding hurricaine Sandy’s disaster, reelected Obama. Romney’s poor campaign planners bet on high voters turn out, portraing Obama as an evil president that need to be defeated. Certainly they did not count and did not prepare to counter Christie mis-representation of Obama’s as an angel instead of the real demon he is.

    Very sad to think that this visually oriented society dependes so much on this group of voters to defeat Obama.

    Republicans have been horrible at running campaigns and the more I think about Chris Christie the more disgusted I feel about him.


  10. Fred S
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    Thanks for the good comments on evangelicals. I recall reading somewhere that evangelicals are a shrinking and older demogrpahic. As the older ones die off, they are not replaced by younger evangelicals. Many of the children of evangelicals do not become one themselves.
    Still leaves the question open – where did the 10mm white voters go? The population of white registered voters has not decreased.

    • William Jefferson Jr.
      Posted November 8, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink | Reply

      College age kids who would have voted Obama anyways. Maybe Romney got an increased share of the white vote because the liberal white vote stayed home in greater numbers.

  11. Big Mac
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    What happened to the white vote in the swing states? My theory is Romney was not a good candidate. The GOP pushed him on us conservatives. I backed Rick Perry. He would have been a much better candidate. He is popular with Latinos. Turnout among the base was lower than it should have been because of the candidate. This is true. I am an evangelical and i voted R/R. Obama got 28% of the evangelical vote, he should get zero considering our bread and butter positions of abortion, gay marriage and Israel. I don’t know what to say, i did my part, but we have to tap in to Latinos. Latinos are typically socially conservative, Marco Rubio is a must in 2016.

  12. ShockandAwe
    Posted November 8, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Again I keep going back to this. In 2008 we heard that a lot of Jewish voters, particularly in South Florida, really liked McCain but once he nominated Palin they were no longer interested. So Romney nominates Ryan, a bright well spoken guy and Romney is a friend of Netanyahu and what happens. Republicans go from 22% of the Jewish vote in 2008 to 30% of the vote in 2012. So again I ask, does the “supposed” 8% gain in the Jewish Vote offset the massive numbers of blue collar white voters that voted for McCain in 2008 because of Palin in places like rural Ohio?

    • Miss. Plonky
      Posted November 9, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink | Reply

      Todd is pretty much everything rural or working cilass guys are. High school education , sporty , small business , oil worker ,union member !family man,builds own home fisherman.

      The Palin’s are ordinary people.. Ryan is acceptable & a hard worker but he is a politician who dines with those who buy $350 bottles of wine.

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