Obama Capitalizes On Emerging Voter Groups

President Obama won re-election, not by going after independent voters, but by going after emerging groups in the U.S. population. By race, age and gender, voters made clear there are two — or more — Americas, and the Obama team captured more of them, and delivered more of them to the polls.

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On the day after Election Day, it's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

One analysis of President Obama's re-election is that he won not by going after Independent voters, but by going after emerging groups in the U.S. population. By race, age and gender, voters made clear that America is made up of many parts, and the Obama captured more of them and delivered more of them to the polls. For a closer look at how the electorate's split, we're joined by Cokie Roberts.

Good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, Renee.

MONTAGNE: So, Cokie, all year one group we've been talking about are Latinos, Hispanic voters and their potential as a voting bloc. So this did play out - big.

ROBERTS: Absolutely. For the first time, they broke double digits in showing up at the polls. Ten percent of the electorate was Hispanic. And they broke 71 percent for Barack Obama. That is the biggest margin he's ever gotten - anybody's gotten. It is huge.

MONTAGNE: And beyond the Latino vote, African-Americans have been solidly Democratic since the civil rights bills of the 1960s, but there was some concern on Democrats this year that the president's support for gay marriage might turn some of that voting bloc off, depress that vote. What happened?

ROBERTS: It didn't happen. About 13 percent of the electorate was African-American and they went 93 percent for President Obama.

And on that question of gay marriage, Renee, it is fascinating. Up until now, anytime gay marriage was on a referendum, on a ballot for all the voters to decide, it lost. Not so yesterday. Anyplace it was on the ballot, gay marriage won. That is a huge change.

And part of that change comes from young people. And part of the reason that the Democrats went after promoting gay marriage so much was to attract young people, with fear that those young people wouldn't be showing up this time the way they did last time. And so that was one of the tactics for getting to them.

MONTAGNE: And, in fact, Cokie, did they show up in the same numbers as 2008?

ROBERTS: Yes, they did. In fact, slightly more - one tick up. Nineteen percent versus 18 percent of the electorate was people 18 to 29 and 60 percent of them went for Barack Obama. You're beginning to see the problem here for the Republican Party.

Now, the flip side is that voters over 45 went for Romney and voters over 65 went for him by 12 points. And that is a very significant and growing part of the electorate, as that huge pig in the python, the baby boom, moves into retirement age.

MONTAGNE: Well, let's turn to one other group in these last few seconds here - women. The president's gender gap seems to have held up much better than it was even expected to.

ROBERTS: That's true. He won women by 13 points last time, 11 points this time. The big difference is he lost men this time. He won them by one point last time, lost by seven points this time. So there are big divides, Renee, and we haven't even mentioned regional differences, religious differences. By the way, the Catholic vote stayed with Obama.

There's a lot of talk today about Republicans reaching out for the future. But President Obama has to reach out for the immediate present, because we have such enormous divides in this country right now. He was able to take advantage of the future, of the growing minority, young and to some degree female vote. But it is a divide where he's lost whites, he's lost Southerners, he's lost the people of a certain income and age. And he's really got to do something fast to deal with that.

MONTAGNE: OK. Well, thanks very much. NPR's Cokie Roberts.

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