In 2012, turnout declined by 3.4 percentage points according to Michael McDonald’s US Elections Project. Plugging in his figures on votes cast and using Census data on eligible voters plus exit poll data on shares of votes by race, we calculate that turnout went down by about equal amounts among white and minority voters (3.4 and 3.2 percentage points, respectively).
Not surprisingly then, Trende’s own data show a substantial number of missing minority voters — 2.3 million compared to 6.1 million whites. There are more missing white voters despite the roughly equal declines in turnout simply because they are a larger group and more voters are knocked out of the voting pool for any given decline in turnout.
Sean Trende responds:
The larger problem with the Teixeira-Abramowitz piece is that when you cut through the rhetoric, my core thesis still stands. Even taking every word in their piece as true, it remains the case that there were well over 5 million fewer white voters than would have been reasonably expected in 2012. This analysis is based on 2008 turnout and population growth. That’s not really in doubt.
Nor is it a mystery which type of white voter stayed home last year. These no-shows fit a profile. They turn out to be the downscale whites whom Teixeira has previously insisted Democrats must woo. If these voters had turned out, they probably would have improved Romney’s share of the vote. This is the crux of my argument, and the only real mystery is why some people find this conclusion so upsetting.
In a separate post, Abramowitz and Teixeira kick out another leg of Trende’s argument – that Republicans have done significantly better with white voters over time:
There is no question that in comparison with the overall electorate, white voters have become more Republican over time. But the interpretation of this result is not as straightforward as Trende suggests. That is because the [Partisan Voting Index (PVI)] for white voters reflects both the Democratic margin among white voters and the size of the nonwhite electorate.
In fact, the main reason that the gap between the Democratic margin in the overall electorate and the Democratic margin among white voters has increased over time is not because whites have become more Republican but because nonwhites, who are overwhelmingly Democratic, now make up a larger share of the overall electorate. As just one example, the PVI of the white vote in 2012 (-24) was far more negative than it was in 1988 (-13). Yet Democratic margins among both whites and nonwhites were essentially the same in each election. The real change: Nonwhites were just 15% of voters in 1988 compared to 28% in 2012. In other words, the rapid growth of the very Democratic nonwhite share of the electorate makes it seem like white voters are becoming more Republican than they actually are.