Voter Participation by Race and Ethnicity

Voter turnout rates among black, Latino and Asian eligible voters were higher in 2008 than in 2004. White eligible voters still have the highest turnout rates overall, but in 2008 turnout rates for whites fell slightly compared with 2004. Overall, the voter turnout rate among all eligible voters in 2008 was 63.6%.

  • In 2008, the voter turnout rate among white eligible voters was 66.1%, down from 67.2% in 2004.
  • The voter turnout rate among black eligible voters was 5 percentage points higher in 2008 than in 2004—65.2% versus 60.3%.
  • In 2008, the gap in the voter turnout rate between white and black eligible voters was nearly eliminated.
  • Voter participation among Latino eligible voters in 2008 was also higher than in 2004. In 2008, nearly half (49.9%) of Latino eligible voters say they voted, compared with 47.2% in 2004.
  • Among Asian eligible voters, the voter turnout rate was up 2.4 percentage points—47% in 2008 versus 44.6% in 2004.
  • Black, Asian and Latino eligible voters reduced the voter turnout rate gap with whites in 2008 compared with 2004.

Voter Participation Among Women and Men, by Race and Ethnicity

Female eligible voters participated in the 2008 election at a higher rate than male eligible voters—65.7% versus 61.5%. Nearly 10 million more women voted than men.7 Overall, for the first time, black female eligible voters cast ballots at the highest rate among all voters.

  • The voter turnout rate among black female eligible voters was 5.1 percentage points higher in 2008 than in 2004—68.8% versus 63.7%.
  • The voter turnout rate among male eligible voters was lower in 2008 than in 2004—61.5% versus 62.1%.
  • The voter turnout rate of male eligible voters in 2008 trailed the voter turnout rate of female eligible voters, continuing a trend that started in the mid-1980s.
  • The gap in voter participation between male and female eligible voters was wider in 2008 than in 2004—4.2 percentage points versus 3.3 percentage points.

Voter Participation Among Younger Voters

Voter participation among young people was higher in 2008 than in 2004—51.1% versus 49.0%. More than 2 million more young people ages 18 to 29 voted in 2008 than in 2004 (Kirby and Kawashima-Ginsberg, 2009). Among young eligible voters, blacks had the highest turnout rate at 58.2%—a historic first.

  • The voter turnout rate among black eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was 8.7 percentage points higher in 2008 than in 2004—58.2% versus 49.5%.
  • Voter participation among white eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was down slightly in 2008 compared with 2004–52.1% versus 52.3%
  • Young Latino eligible voters increased their voter participation rate to 40.7% in 2008 from 35.5% in 2004.
  • The voter turnout rate among Asian eligible voters ages 18 to 29 was up 10.5 percentage points, to 42.9% in 2008 f32.4% in 2004. This was the largest increase among all racial and ethnic groups for that age group.