Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

2016 electorate will be the most diverse in U.S. history

The U.S. electorate this year will be the country’s most racially and ethnically diverse ever. Nearly one-in-three eligible voters on Election Day (31%) will be Hispanic, black, Asian or another racial or ethnic minority, up from 29% in 2012. Much of this change is due to strong growth among Hispanic eligible voters, in particular U.S.-born youth.

An analysis of changes in the nation’s eligible voting population – U.S. citizens ages 18 and older – offers a preview of profound U.S. demographic shifts that are projected to continue for decades to come. While the nation’s 156 million non-Hispanic white eligible voters in 2016 far outnumber the 70 million eligible voters that are racial or ethnic minorities, their growth lags that of minority groups. As a result, the non-Hispanic white share of the electorate has fallen from 71% in 2012 to 69%.

Whites eligible to vote showed slowest growth in the electorate since 2012

There are 10.7 million more eligible voters today than there were in 2012. More than two-thirds of net growth in the U.S. electorate during this time has come from racial and ethnic minorities. Hispanics, blacks, Asians and other minorities had a net increase of 7.5 million eligible voters, compared with a net increase of 3.2 million among non-Hispanic white eligible voters.

The growth among non-Hispanic white eligible voters has been slower than among racial or ethnic minorities in large part because they are overrepresented in deaths due to an aging population. Non-Hispanic whites make up 69% of U.S. eligible voters, but accounted for 76% of all eligible voters who died (6.6 million of 8.7 million) between 2012 and 2016.

2016 voters most diverse ever

Another reason growth has lagged among non-Hispanic white eligible voters is that they’re underrepresented among young people born in the U.S. who turn 18 – the group most responsible for the nation’s growth in eligible voters. Non-Hispanic whites accounted for 57% of the 16 million new eligible voters who turned 18 between 2012 and 2016. By comparison, racial ethnic minorities – who make up 31% of the electorate – accounted for 43% of new eligible voters born in the U.S. who turned 18.

Unlike other groups, most growth in the Asian electorate has come from naturalizations – immigrants becoming U.S. citizens. Since 2012, 60% of new Asian eligible voters have gained the right to vote by this means. By comparison, 26% of new Hispanic eligible voters came from naturalizations during this time.

While the U.S. electorate is growing more diverse, there’s a caveat when it comes to the impact of these changes: the relatively low voter turnout rates among Hispanics and Asians. In the 2012 presidential election, 64% of non-Hispanic white eligible voters cast ballots, as did 67% of black eligible voters. By comparison, the voter turnout rate was 48% among Hispanics and 47% among Asians.