In a reversal from recent elections, voter turnout increased for the non-Hispanic white population but dropped for the non-Hispanic black population in the 2016 presidential election.
According to the latest voting and registration data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout for the non-Hispanic black population dropped from 66.6 percent in 2012-- when their voting was higher than the non-Hispanic white population for the first time in this data series -- to 59.6 percent in 2016.
Voter turnout for the non-Hispanic white population rose from 64.1 percent to 65.3 percent.
“In 2016, we see evidence that the 2008 and 2012 elections may have been exceptions to normal turnout patterns," said Thom File, a Voting and Registration expert with the U.S. Census Bureau. "Last November the black voting rate actually decreased by about 7 percentage points which is a rather dramatic drop off. Meanwhile turnout for non-Hispanic whites actually increased by about a percentage point, so the 2016 election definitely looked different from 2008 and 2012 in terms of race and turnout.”
Young voters were the only age group to show increased turnout between 2012 (45 percent) and 2016 (46.1 percent). All older age groups reported either small, yet statistically significant turnout decreases, or no meaningful change.
“In general older Americans vote at higher rates than younger Americans and in 2016, this was once again the case," File said. "The older the group the higher the voting rate, with the highest being about 71 percent for those 65 and older."
Even though young people reported the lowest overall turnout of any age group, 18- to 29-year olds were the only group to see their turnout increase relative to 2012.
"Here, turnout increased by about a percentage point for this youngest age group, whereas older age groups had rates either slightly lower or the same as in 2012," File said.
These data come from the Voting and Registration Supplement to the Current Population Survey for the November 2016 election, which has surveyed the civilian non-institutionalized population in the United States since 1964.
It is the most comprehensive data source available on the social and demographic composition of the electorate in federal elections. The package of tables provides data with a focus on patterns of voter turnout by race, Hispanic origin, age and other demographic characteristics such as educational attainment and family income. By examining these characteristics and how they have changed over the years, these statistics provide a better understanding of the social and demographic factors that have influenced recent American elections.
Among the highlights: