New Research Memo Sheds Light on First-Time Voters
New voters played a decisive role in the 2008 election, according to a new research memorandum by Project Vote Research Director Lorraine Minnite. In First-Time Voters in the 2008 Election, Minnite finds that new voters accounted for 12 percent of the votes cast in 2008, and that they voted for Obama over McCain by slightly more than two-to-one. In all, first-time voters cast an estimated 10 million ballots for Obama, comprising 15 percent of the total vote.
Just as significantly, the composition of the new voter electorate shifted along race/ethnicity and class lines in 2008, compared to 2004. The percentage of blacks voting for the first time expanded from 17 percent in 2004 to 19 percent in 2008, adding some 800,000 more black first-time voters to the pool. The relative increase among Latinos was even larger. Twenty-eight percent of Latinos reported voting for the first time in 2008, compared to 22 percent in 2004, representing an additional 800,000 new voters.
Minnite finds that the most significant relative increase, however, occurred along class lines. She writes “First-time voting among the lowest income group, those with annual family income of $15,000 a year or less, nearly doubled in proportion among all voters in this income category, from 18 percent in 2004, to 34 percent in 2008.”
As Congress and the president negotiate over the federal budget—which, in almost any form, promises to include reduced funding for education, health, and social services—it is interesting to look at the policy preferences among these new voters who arguably gave Obama his presidency.
Project Vote’s survey of the 2008 electorate finds that individuals who voted for the first time in 2008 strongly favor an active role for government in ensuring economic fairness and educational opportunity:
Four out of five new voters (80 percent) favor raising the minimum wage so that workers depending on minimum wage jobs do not fall below the poverty line.
- Seventy-nine percent of new voters support increased federal spending on infrastructure and public works to address the nation’s faltering economy.
- Eighty-six percent of new voters want to see increased spending on public education.
Minnite also notes “across an array of economic issues, new voters trust government more than the private sector to address or remedy problems.”
Read the complete report here.