How People of Color Helped Obama Win Reelection

President Barack Obama wins the 2012 presidential election
President Barack Obama waves to supports after winning the 2012 presidential election on Nov. 6, 2012.

Spencer Platt / Getty Images News

People of color voted en masse to help President Barack Obama win reelection. While just 39% of white Americans voted for Obama on Election Day in 2012, a staggering number of Black, Latinx, and Asian voters backed the president at the polls.   The reasons for this are multifaceted, but voters of color largely supported the president because they felt that Republican candidate Mitt Romney could not relate to them.

A national exit poll revealed that 81% 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 opined.

The rise in voters of color reveals how much the United States has changed from 1996 when 83% of those who cast ballots in the presidential election were white voters. If the demographics had not changed, it's highly unlikely that Obama would have made it to the White House.

Loyal Black Voters

Black people's share of the electorate is larger than any other community of color. On Election Day in 2012, Black people made up 13% of U.S. voters. Ninety-three percent of these voters supported Obama’s reelection bid, down just 2% from 2008. 

While Black people has been accused of favoring Obama just because he’s a Black man, the group has a long history of loyalty to Democrats running for office. John Kerry, who lost the 2004 presidential race to George W. Bush, won 88% of the Black vote. Given that the Black voter turnout was more than 6% higher in 2012 than it was in 2004, the group’s devotion to Obama undoubtedly gave him an edge.

Latinxs Break Voting Record

More Latinxs than ever before turned out at the polls in 2012, making up 10% of the electorate. Seventy-one percent of these Latinxs backed Obama for reelection. Latinxs likely supported 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. While Republicans supported past iterations of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act—Sen. Hatch, Orrin G.(R-UT) was a co-sponsor of the original act passed in 2002—party members have largely opposed more recent versions. In June 2019, 187 Republicans voted against the Dream and Promise Act, which would have not only protected 2.1 million such immigrants from deportation but also put them on the path to citizenship.

Republicans and Democrats hold differing views on immigration and immigration reform, with a majority of Republicans favoring tighter border security and deportation of undocumented immigrants. That stance has alienated Latinx voters, 60% 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 Latinx community. Sixty-six percent of Latinx people say the government should ensure that the public has access to health care, and 61% supported Obamacare in 2012, according to Latino Decisions.

Rising Influence of Asian Americans

Asian Americans make up a small but growing percentage of the U.S. electorate—nearly 5% in 2020. An estimated 73% of Asian Americans voted for Obama in 2012, Voice of America determined using 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 Latinx voters do, they could play a more influential role in future presidential elections. According to the Pew Research Center, the Asian American community has outpaced Latinxs as the fastest-growing immigrant group in the country.

View Article Sources
  1. Changing Face of America Helps Assure Obama Victory.” Pew Research Center - U.S. Politics & Policy, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020.

  2. Cervantes, Bobby. “Poll: Obama Won 71% of Asian Vote.” POLITICO, 12 Dec. 2012,

  3. How Groups Voted in 2012.” Roper Center for Public Opinion Research,

  4. Exit Polls Anatomise Obama Win.” BBC News, BBC, 7 Nov. 2012.

  5. Cooper, Michael. “G.O.P. Factions Grapple Over Meaning of Loss.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 7 Nov. 2012.

  6. How Groups Voted in 1996.” Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.

  7. How Groups Voted in 2008.” Roper Center for Public Opinion Research.

  8. Election Results,

  9. Frey, William H. “Minority Turnout Determined the 2012 Election.” Brookings, Brookings, 24 Aug. 2016, .

  10. Hatch, Orrin G. “Cosponsors - S.1291 - 107th Congress (2001-2002): DREAM Act.”, 20 June 2002.

  11. Entralgo, Rebekah “187 Republicans Vote against the Dream and Promise Act.” ThinkProgress, 4 June 2019.

  12. Daniller, Andrew. “Americans' Immigration Policy Priorities.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 30 May 2020.

  13. Naren Ranjit, Liji Jinaraj. “ImpreMedia/Latino Decisions 2012 Latino Election Eve Poll.” 2012 Latino Election Eve Poll,

  14. Budiman, Abby. “Asian Americans Are the Fastest-Growing Racial or Ethnic Group in the U.S. Electorate.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 28 July 2020.

  15. Exit Polls Show Asian Americans Backed Obama by Wide Margin.” Voice of America,

  16. Noe-Bustamante, Luis, et al. “U.S. Hispanic Population Surpassed 60 Million in 2019, but Growth Has Slowed.” Pew Research Center, 10 July 2020.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Nittle, Nadra Kareem. "How People of Color Helped Obama Win Reelection." ThoughtCo, Mar. 21, 2021, Nittle, Nadra Kareem. (2021, March 21). How People of Color Helped Obama Win Reelection. Retrieved from Nittle, Nadra Kareem. "How People of Color Helped Obama Win Reelection." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 6, 2023).