The Hidden Swing Voters
The National Urban League Wire
Published: Mon. Jul 16, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Updated: Wed. Aug 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Comments: 1

A question that looms large in relation to the African-American vote in 2012 is how might the election outcome be impacted by lower African-American voter turnout in 2012 than 2008? The National Urban League Policy Institute created a simple quantitative analytical model of voting in 2012 for all race/ethnic groups to see how the outcome would be affected if the African-American voter turnout rate fell below 2008 levels.

The Hidden Swing Voters: Impact of African-Americans in 2012 explains how African-American voters tipped the outcome of the 2008 presidential election in several key states, and are poised to do so again in 2012. The report studies factors that contributed to the extrodinary turnout of African-Amerrican voters and whether the re-election of the first African-American president will play enough of an historic factor to mobilize this community again in 2012.


A decline in the African-American voter turnout in 2012 can tip the presidential election outcome in the critical swing states of North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia.
  • In 2012, if the African-American voter turnout rate in every state declines to 60%, which was the national voter turnout rate for African-Americans in 2004, then we estimate:
    • President Barack Obama will not win in North Carolina – a decline in African-American turnout will lead to a loss of 63,706 votes which is 4.5 times the 2008 margin of victory;
    • President Barack Obama will have difficulty winning in Ohio and Virginia–lower African- American turnout will lead to a loss of almost a quarter of the margin of victory in 2008.
The gap between African-American and white (non-Hispanic) registration rates in 2008 was greater than the gap in turnout rates but when registered, African-Americans were the most likely to vote in 2008. An extra 3 million African-American voters can be gained in 2012 by increasing the African-American registration rate.

  • In 2012, if overall African-American registration rate rises to 78.3% (2008 registration rate in Maryland for African-Americans) from the rate of 69.7% in 2008, and turnout is as it was in 2008, then we estimate that an extra 3 million African-Americans will vote.
  • African-American voter registration rates did not match turnout rates in 2008 – African- American registration rate in 2008 at 69.7% was 3.8 points below the white (non-Hispanic) registration rate and the turnout rate was 1.4 points below the white (non-Hispanic) turnout rate.
  • When African-Americans were registered they were the most likely to vote in 2008 – 92.8% of registered African-Americans, 90% of registered whites (non-Hispanic) and 84% of registered Hispanics voted in 2008.

African-Americans had the greatest real increase in voter turnout in the 2008 election - growing at twice the rate of growth in the African-American citizen, over 18 years population while other groups of voters grew at/or below their rate of growth in the citizen, over 18 years population.

»Download full report
»Download PowerPoint presentation

Share This Article:

Get Involved with your local Urban League
Enter your ZIP code to find your nearest National Urban league affiliate.

Success Stories