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The Role of the Rising American Electorate in the 2012 Election

The following e-blast is excerpted from this Democracy Corps memo.

Definitive.

Barack Obama won because he recognized a New America. The President managed only 39 percent of the white vote, the lowest white percentage recorded for a winning national candidate, and suffered a 12-point swing against him among independent voters, but won both the popular vote and an Electoral College landslide by energizing voters we describe as the Rising American Electorate. These voters--unmarried women, young people, Hispanics, and African Americans--not only delivered huge margins to the incumbent--nearly matching 2008 totals among unmarried women and African Americans, exceeding 2008 among Hispanics--but also turned out in ever greater numbers. Collectively, these voters made up nearly half (48 percent) of the 2012 electorate according to national exit poll estimates, up four points from 2008, up four points from 2008, including a 3 point increase among unmarried women.

This outcome was not inevitable. It reflects conscious and deliberate decisions by both campaigns, who made different calculations about what the 2012 electorate would ultimately look like and executed a strategy accordingly. For the first time, a national campaign ran advertising explicitly targeting unmarried women, a group who, heretofore, was too often overlooked by national candidates, despite the fact that they account for 26 percent of the voting age population. While much has been said about the gender gap in this campaign, both married men and married women voted for Romney (53 to 46 percent Romney among married women; 58 to 40 percent Romney among white married women). Barack Obama won the women's vote and thereby won the White House by rolling up a huge margin (67 to 31 percent) among unmarried women. The marriage gap--the difference in margins between married and unmarried women--dwarfs the gender gap by 25 points (43 and 18 percent), as it has for the last three presidential elections.

Partnering with Women's Voices, Women Vote Action Fund, Democracy Corps and Greenberg Quinlan Rosner conducted a survey of 1,001 voters in the 2012 election to explore the role of the Rising American Electorate. Read the full memo at Democracy Corps.