Despite some pre-election speculation that enthusiasm might have dampened for President Obama among African-Americans, this key constituency is turning out in force.
The black share of the electorate nationwide thus far is 13 percent — matching the record level seen in 2008, according to exit polls. African-American turnout in Ohio is higher than it was four years ago.
“Ohio is an important state. There’s been a lot of advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts,” says Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center. “The black constituency is key to the Obama people, and they’ve done a good job in turning them out.”
It may have been more inspirational to vote for the nation’s first black president than voting for him a second time, but the commitment to Obama among African-Americans has not lessened, says David Bositis, an expert on black voting patterns at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies.
Exit polling suggests that African-Americans are giving Obama 93 percent of their vote, compared with 95 percent last time around.
“In 2008, he was symbolic; this time around, it was much deeper,” Bositis says. “There’s been a shared experience of hard times that African-Americans and the president went through together.”
Some blacks take a more conservative stance than the president when it comes to gay marriage. But many African-Americans have been delighted with his policies of expanding health insurance coverage and freeing up student loan dollars by cutting out private lenders, says Hilary Shelton, Washington director for the NAACP.
“African-Americans were very, very pleased with those programs, though so much more needs to be done,” says Shelton, who notes that the NAACP registered 400,000 voters this year.
The turnout effort among blacks in Ohio was paralleled in Florida among Hispanics and led to a similar increase in turnout, says Kohut, the Pew pollster.
But the big demographic surprise of the night thus far, he says, is that while young white voters are turning out in numbers akin to their 2008 showing, they are not lending as much of their support to Obama this time around.
“That probably has a great deal to do with jobs,” Kohut says.