There’s not much more that I can say that others have not said already regarding the significance of Barack Obama’s election as our next President: historic, monumental, amazing, inspiring, emotional, and quite simple, awesome. As a sociologist and demographer, I’d like to offer a few statistics on his election to be our next President:
- 136.6 million Americans voted, representing a 64.1% turnout rate, the highest since 65.7 percent in 1908.
- Obama is the first Democrat to receive more than 50 percent of the popular vote since Jimmy Carter in 1976.
- Obama received 49% of all the male votes (vs. 48% for McCain) and 56% of the female votes (vs. 43% for McCain). But once you break it down by race, Obama only received 41% of the White male vote (vs. 57% for McCain) and 46% of the White female vote (vs. 53% for McCain).
- 95% of African Americans, 66% of Latinos, and 61% of Asian Americans voted for Obama. Along with the previous statistic, what this tells us is that while large numbers of Whites supported Obama, ultimately non-Whites helped put him over the top.
- 66% of voters under the age of 30 voted for Obama.
- 52% of voters making $200,000 or more voted for Obama (vs. 46% for McCain).
- By level of education, the groups that voted for Obama the most were those at both ends of the spectrum — those who have no high school degree and those with a postgraduate degree.
- 54% of Catholics voted for Obama (vs. 45% for McCain), although among White Catholics, 47% voted for Obama while 52% for McCain.
- 50% of voters living in the suburbs voted for Obama (vs. 48% for McCain).
- Among voters who felt that their taxes would go up if Obama were elected President, 43% still voted for him.
- 64% of all voters felt that McCain unfairly attacked Obama, while only 49% of all voters felt Obama unfairly attacked McCain.
- 47% of all voters felt that, regardless of who is President, race relations are likely to get better in the next few years, and of those, 70% voted for Obama. In contrast, 15% felt that race relations are likely to get worse and of those, 70% voted for McCain.
- 9% of voters said that the candidate’s race was an important factor and of those, 53% voted for Obama.
- 58% of voters said that issues, rather than personal qualities, were more important to them and of those, 60% voted for Obama. In contrast, 59% of those who believed personal qualities were more important to them voted for McCain.
For me, the most telling and interesting of these statistics is first, that shows 52% of voters making at least $200,000 voted for Obama versus 46% voting for McCain. In my opinion, that is pretty astounding — those in the upper 6%-7% of the nation in terms of wealth supported Obama more than McCain, even though their taxes are likely to go up slightly. I give these voters a lot of credit for supporting Obama and goes a long way to counteract the stereotype of them as caring only about their wallets.
But perhaps the most significant statistic is how Obama captured almost all of the African American votes and a huge percentage of the Latino and Asian American votes and how, most likely, this was likely a big factor in helping to put him over the top.
It is certainly true that White votes still outnumbered non-White votes for Obama and that in the end, the scope of Obama’s victory shows that he has significant, broad-based support from Americans of all racial backgrounds. Nonetheless, I think it’s pretty clear that the Latinos and Asian Americans did constitute a crucial “swing vote” and ultimately, they overwhelmingly rallied to Obama’s support.
While observers, commentators, and scholars will debate this particular issue for the foreseeable future, it does appear that, combined with their continuing population growth, Latino and Asian American voters are poised to have this kind of potential impact and power for years to come.