How Minority Voters Helped Obama Win Reelection

Statistics on people of color at the polls

Obama greets supporters
President Obama with supporters in 2012. Mary K Pics/Flickr.com

Americans from ethnic minority groups voted en masse to help President Barack Obama win reelection. While just 39 percent of white Americans voted for Obama on Election Day 2012, staggering amounts of blacks, Hispanics and Asians backed the president at the ballot box. The reasons for this are multifaceted, but minority voters largely supported the president because they felt that Republican candidate Mitt Romney could not relate to them.

A national exit poll revealed that 81 percent of Obama supporters said the quality that mattered most to them in a presidential candidate is whether he “cares about people like me.” Romney, born into wealth and privilege, apparently didn’t fit the bill.

The growing disconnect between Republicans and the diverse American electorate wasn’t lost on political analyst Matthew Dowd. He remarked on ABC News after the election that the Republican Party no longer reflects U.S. society, using a television show analogy to make his point. “Republicans right now are a ‘Mad Men’ party in a ‘Modern Family’ world,” he said.

The rise in minority voters reveals how much the United States has changed from 25 years ago when the electorate was 90 percent white. If the demographics had not changed, it's highly unlikely that Obama would have made it to the White House.

Loyal African Americans

Blacks may be the second largest minority group in the United States, but their share of the electorate is larger than any other community of color.

On Election Day 2012, African Americans made up 13 percent of U.S. voters. Ninety-three percent of these voters supported Obama’s reelection bid, down just two percent from 2008.

While the African American community has been accused of favoring Obama precisely because he’s black, the group has a long history of loyalty to Democratic political candidates.

John Kerry, who lost the 2004 presidential race to George W. Bush, won 88 percent of the black vote. Given that the black electorate was two percent larger in 2012 than it was in 2004, the group’s devotion to Obama undoubtedly gave him an edge.

Latinos Break Voting Record

More Latinos than ever before turned out at the polls on Election Day 2012. Hispanics made up 10 percent of the electorate. Seventy-one percent of these Latinos backed President Obama for reelection. Latinos likely backed Obama overwhelmingly over Romney because they supported the president’s Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) as well as his decision to stop deporting undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. Republicans widely vetoed the legislation known as the DREAM Act, which would have not only protected such immigrants from deportation but also put them on the path to citizenship.

Republican opposition to immigration reform has alienated Latino voters, 60 percent of whom say they know an unauthorized immigrant, according to a Latino Decisions poll taken on the eve of the 2012 election. Affordable health care is also a major concern of the Latino community. Sixty-six percent of Hispanics say the government should ensure that the public has access to health care, and 61 percent support Obamacare, according to Latino Decisions.

Rising Influence of Asian Americans

Asian Americans make up a small (3 percent) but growing percentage of the U.S. electorate. An estimated 73 percent of Asian Americans voted for President Obama, Voice of America determined on Nov. 7 using preliminary exit poll data. Obama has strong ties to the Asian community. He's not only a native of Hawaii but grew up partly in Indonesia and has a half-Indonesian sister. These aspects of his background likely resonated with some Asian Americans. 

While Asian American voters don’t yet wield the influence that black and Latino voters do, expect them to be a bigger factor in the next presidential election. The Pew Research Center reported in 2012 that the Asian American community has actually outpaced Hispanics as the fastest-growing immigrant group in the country.

In 2016 presidential election, Asian Americans are expected to make up five percent of voters, if not more.