The percentage of the voters who are black, Hispanic, or other people of color is growing in North Carolina and Florida, while the white share of the electorate is dropping, according to a new analysis of voter rolls in the two states. Those trends may help President Obama win the election.
According to a report released by the Institute for Southern Studies, the percentage of voters who do not identify as white in North Carolina is now 29 percent, increasing by 5 points over the last 4 years. In Florida, the increase was 2 percent between 2008 and 2012 and the non-white vote is now 30 percent of the electorate.
These numbers are illustrative of a nationwide trend; the population of minorities in the U.S., particularly Hispanics, is growing at a faster rate than whites.
These trends are important because black, Latino and Asian voters all lean heavily-Democratic, so even a small shift in the size of the minority population could tip these two states, both of which Obama narrowly won in 2008. Mitt Romney is favored to win North Carolina, as Obama’s victory there was a major upset, and Florida is considered a toss-up.
In North Carolina, while the black and Hispanic percentage of the electorate increased by about a point, the biggest growth was in voters who describe themselves as “other.” While this number includes people who simply don’t list their race, people who check “other” are often Asian-Americans or people of mixed race. In North Carolina, that number was less than 1 percent in 2008, but is almost 5 percent now.
In Florida, the “other” category stayed largely the same, but Hispanic voters grew from 12 to 13 percent of the electorate and black voters from 12 to 13 percent as well.
The white vote is still about 73 percent of the electorate in North Carolina and 68 percent in Florida. And these numbers could shift as both parties try to register more voters in the next several months.
But the data make even more clear Obama’s biggest challenge: taking advantage of the growth in the minority vote in key states, but not losing by much wider margins than in 2008 among white voters.
Follow Perry Bacon Jr. on Twitter at @perrybaconjr