How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Report: People of color made up 42 percent of 2012 voters ages 18-29

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The changing demographics of the United States electorate has been a story since before Election Day - and especially after - but a new report crystallizes the changing racial and ethnic voter dynamics that influenced the election results earlier this month.

The Pew Research Center released a report Monday that examines participation among groups of voters by age, especialy young voters and their support for President Barack Obama. The numbers declined slightly since 2008 but they were still key to his reelection victory. There's also data on the growing participation of voters of color. 

On that end, the numbers are impressive: 42 percent of voters between ages 18 and 29 this year were voters of color, who in this report are identified as Latino, black, and "mixed-race or some other race." This is nearly double the percentage of nonwhite voters in 2000, when voters of color under 30 accounted for only 26 percent of those who cast ballots. Meanwhile, the percentage of voters who identified as non-Latino whites in this age group dropped from 74 percent in 2000 to 58 percent this year. 

The shift isn't as dramatic among voters 30 and older, but it's still notable: 24 percent of voters over 30 this year were nonwhite, the report says, compared with 18 percent in 2000. As with young voters, the non-Latino white electorate over 30 has shrunken accordingly in the last dozen years.

What this all means politically has been a popular topic since the election, with countless analyses calling for the Republican party - reckoning with a dearth of Latino and other ethnic voter support - to shift its outreach strategies and embrace a more welcoming stance on immigration, among other issues.

Race and ethnicity aside, the proportion of young voters continues to inch up (18 percent in 2008, 19 percent in 2012, according to the data) - and more of them identify with the Democratic party. Among voters 29 and under, 44 percent considered themselves Democrats, 26 percent identified as Republicans, and 30 percent considered themselves political independents. The report indicates that young voters are also likely to be less religious and to lean more toward the Democratic stance on a number of issues, including health care, gay marriage, abortion and immigration.

Sixty-eight percent of voters under 30 said undocumented immigrants should "be given a chance for legal status. (However, the data said this attitude was matched by voters 45-64; 68 percent of them said the same.)

Interestingly, while young voters overwhelmingly supported President Obama over Republican candidate Mitt Romney by 60-36 percent, he lost some ground among them: In 2008, 66 percent of voters under 30 supported Obama, while 32 percent supported Republican candidate Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Why the slip? The data points to Obama losing support from young white voters, male voters, and independents. From the report:

Only 44 percent of white voters under 30 backed Obama, while 51 percent voted for Romney. This is a substantial change compared with 2008, when Obama carried the young white vote by 10 points (54 percent to 44 percent). Far more young blacks and Hispanics backed Obama than Romney, and there was little fall off in his support among these groups from 2008.

The incumbent lost support among young white men and women; he also lost some support from young black men, according to the data, but not from women.

The data in the Pew report is based on exit polling from the National Election Pool, a consortium of  major media companies that sponsors election exit polls. You can see entire report here.

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