Tuesday's Second Biggest Winner: Democracy

We are witnessing a tremendous ideological shift among young voters -- one that could reshape our politics for decades to come.
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Along with Barack Obama (and the other winners I've written about), there was another big winner on election day: democracy.

Based on initial numbers, it looks like over 133 million people turned out to vote on Tuesday -- 11 million more than voted in 2004 - producing the highest turnout rate in 44 years (62.5 percent). By way of comparison, the turnout rate in 1996 was just over 49 percent (that's right, less than half of those eligible to vote bothered to show up).

One of the most noteworthy trends was the makeup of the electorate.

In 2000, whites accounted for 81 percent of all voters. This year, that number fell to 74 percent, the result of an increase in both African American and Hispanic turnout. That is a huge demographic shift.

Those two groups, along with young voters, ended up having a tremendous impact on the outcome of the 2008 race.

Let's start with Hispanics, who accounted for the most dramatic swing. In 2004, Kerry outperformed Bush with Hispanic voters 59 percent to 40 percent. In 2008, the Hispanic vote went 67 percent for Obama, and only 31 percent for McCain -- a net improvement of 17 points.

Even more impressive was the shift in the battleground states with high Hispanic populations, particularly Florida. Four years ago, Hispanic voters in the Sunshine State went for Bush over Kerry 55 percent to 44 percent; this year Obama beat McCain among Florida Hispanics 57 to 42 -- a remarkable 26-point swing.

Hispanic voters made the difference in Colorado, Florida, and New Mexico. In Colorado, Obama's Hispanic support accounted for 12 percent of the electorate; he won the state by 7 percent. In Florida, Obama's Hispanic support accounted for nearly 8 percent of the electorate; he won the state by 2 percent. In New Mexico, Obama's Hispanic support accounted for 28 percent of the electorate; he won the state by 15 percent.

So much for the primary season conventional wisdom that Hispanics would be reluctant to vote for a black candidate.

Next up, young voters. Around 2.2 million more young people voted on Tuesday than did in 2004, accounting for 18 percent of the electorate -- a slight uptick from 17 percent in 2004. But they overwhelmingly voted for Obama: 66 percent to 32 percent - a 34-point spread. That's 25 percent more than the 9-point youth vote advantage Kerry had over Bush.

Patrick Ruffini at The Next Right drills it down further:

Had the Democratic 18-29 vote stayed the same as 2004's already impressive percentage, Obama would have won by about 2 points, and would not have won 73 electoral votes from Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, or Indiana. So, to clarify here: Obama's youth margin = 73 electoral votes.

We are witnessing a tremendous ideological shift among young voters - one that could reshape our politics for decades to come. From 1976 through 2004, young voters basically supported the same candidate as older voters in most elections. During that time, the average gap in presidential choice between young voters and the overall electorate was only 1.8 percent. In 2008, that gap was 28 percent, with Obama winning by 6 percent -- but carrying the youth vote by 34 percent.

And Obama's appeal to young voters cut across racial lines. Among voters 18-29, he got 54 percent of white voters, 76 percent of Hispanic voters, and 95 percent of African American voters.

Overall, over 2 million more African American voters turned out this time around. And they favored Obama over McCain 95 percent to 4 percent - a net 14-point increase from Kerry's 88 to 11 win over Bush.

Some other numbers:

Obama won among both women (56/43) and men (49/48). Whites favored McCain (55/43), but blacks gave Obama 95 percent of their vote, and Hispanics went for Obama 66/31.

Obama carried voters 18-29 (66/32), 30-44 (52/46), and 45-64 (50/49). The only group McCain carried was voters 65 and older (53/45). This oldest group accounted for only 16 percent of the electorate.

Obama won among all education levels carrying 63 percent among voters without a high school degree, 52 percent among high school grads, 51 percent among those with some college, 50 percent among college grads, and 58 percent among those with postgraduate degrees.

Obama also won in almost every size city. He carried big cities 70/28 (home to 11 percent of voters), small cities 59/39 (home to 19 percent of voters), and the suburbs 50/48 (home to 49 percent of voters). McCain won in small towns and rural areas 53/45 (home to 21 percent of voters)

Lastly, Jewish voters favored Obama 78 percent to 21 percent -- so much for the Lieberman bounce or the Khalidi smears!

All in all, a great election for democracy.

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