WASHINGTON — Blacks voted at a higher rate nationally than whites in the 2012 election, although that wasn't the case in Oklahoma, according to a Census Bureau report released Wednesday.
The higher participation by blacks was a first since the Census Bureau started tracking voting data by race in 1968, according to the report, which was based on a survey.
The number of black and Hispanic voters increased from 2008 to 2012, while the number of non-Hispanic white voters decreased by about two million in that time.
“Since 1996, this is the only example of a race group showing a decrease in net voting from one presidential election to the next, and it indicates that the 2012 voting population expansion came primarily from minority voters,” the report says.
President Barack Obama, the nation's first black president, was re-elected in 2012. Census Bureau sociologist Thom File declined to speculate Wednesday on whether Obama's race drove blacks to the polls, saying the study looked only at demographics and not at partisan preferences.
According to the report, which concludes that the U.S. electorate has become more diverse, 66.2 percent of blacks voted in the 2012 election, compared to 64.1 percent of whites. Hispanics and Asians voted at rates of about 48 percent last year.
The study also shows that blacks and Hispanics have gained a considerable share of the eligible electorate since 1996, while the White share of the eligible electorate has dropped from 79 percent to 71 percent since 1996.
In Oklahoma, the report says, 55.9 percent of whites voted in the 2012 election, while 54.6 percent of blacks voted. However, the survey questions for both races had a margin of error of 3 percent, suggesting the difference was statistically insignificant.
About 55 percent of eligible women voted in Oklahoma last year, while about 50 percent of the men cast ballots, according to the study.