Young Black Turnout a Record in 2008 Election

Census Bureau says overall turnout fell, but minorities voted in record numbers.

ByABC News
October 30, 2008, 11:50 AM

July 21, 2009— -- In the historic 2008 presidential election, blacks had the highest turnout among voters aged 18-24, something that has never before occurred in our nation's history, data released this week by the U.S. Census Bureau showed.

According to the new data, nearly 131 million people reported voting in November's election, an increase of about 5 million from 2004. The researchers found that the increase was almost entirely attributed to minority voters.

Barack Obama was elected the first African American president, with 52.9 percent of the vote compared with Sen. John McCain's 45.7 percent.

While the number of non-Hispanic white voters remained statistically the same, about 2 million more black voters, 2 million more Hispanic voters and about 600,000 more Asian voters showed up to the polls.

Thom File, a voting analyst with the Census Bureau, said that while the Census Bureau doesn't look specifically at why this increase occurred, the data does show that this election was unique in the sense of who came out to vote.

"Clearly there was something special about this election in regards to turnout," he said.

Heather Smith, executive director of Rock the Vote, said these numbers did not come as a surprise to her. In 2008, the organization, aimed at getting the young generation to the polls, manned what was the largest non-partisan youth voter registration drive in the nation's history by getting 2.6 million young voters registered.

Smith said the census numbers prove that this generation is highly engaged in participating in the electoral process.

"It solidifies the fact that young people are participating, and really taking their future in their hands by going to the ballot box in increased numbers," she said.

William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institute said the key part of this election is the reduced support of whites for Republicans and very solid support among minorities for Obama.

He calls this a "kind of turning point for the electorate."

"It shows the real power that minority and young people can have between them," Frey said.