The percentage of eligible black voters that cast ballots in 2012 was higher than that of white voters for the first time, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Sixty-six percent of black voters turned out, compared to 64 percent of non-Hispanic whites, in the most recent presidential election. That had never happened since the bureau began tracking this data in 1996.
Also according to exit polling data, this was the most diverse electorate ever. The percentage of white voters declined to 72 percent, while the portion of Hispanic voters hit 10 percent for the first time. Black voters accounted for about 13 percent of the electorate.
The Census Bureau report, titled "The Diversifying Electorate," was authored by Thom File, a Census Bureau sociologist, and embargoed until Wednesday evening. The report looked at the demographics of voting-age citizens who reported casting ballots in its Current Population Survey in November.
"Blacks have been voting at higher rates, and the Hispanic and Asian populations are growing rapidly, yielding a more diverse electorate," File said in a press release. "Over the last five presidential elections, the share of voters who were racial or ethnic minorities rose from just over one in six in 1996 to more than one in four in 2012."
While nearly 2 million more people voted in 2012 than in 2008, the overall percentage of eligible voters who turned out declined (64 percent in 2008 to 62 percent in 2012), the report found. Blacks were the only race or ethnic group to see an increase in voter turnout. The percentage of white, Hispanic and Asian voters who turned out all declined, though white voters were the only group to see a decline in raw voters.
The Associated Press recently came to the same conclusion — that black turnout percentage eclipsed that of whites for the first time — after conducting its own analysis of census and voter data.