I have noticed that several political writers and pundits have been claiming that African Americans and young people failed to turn out in the huge numbers that people were expecting. Recently the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza claimed that it is a "myth" that "a wave of African Americans and youth voters was the key to Obama's victory."
The truth is that African Americans and young people did turnout in large numbers for Barack Obama and were important to his victory.
According to exit polls, African Americans made up 11% of the total vote in 2004 and 13% in 2008. 2% does not sound like a lot, but that is a huge jump. That means African Americans increased their percent of the electorate by 18%. But overall turnout was higher in 2008 than it was in 2004, so in fact 22% more African Americans voted in 2008. A 22% increase in turnout among African Americans had a huge impact on Obama's victory. Not only did African Americans vote in large numbers, but they also voted more heavily for Obama. Obama received 32% more votes from African Americans than John Kerry. That allowed him to net 4.6 million more votes from the African American community than John Kerry. Only 3 million votes separated George W. Bush and John Kerry and 8.5 million votes separated Barack Obama and John McCain.Similarly, the youth vote only increased from 17% of the electorate to 18%, but the vote was overwhelmingly for Obama. Barack Obama received 34% more votes from 18-29 year olds than John Kerry. That is a net positive of more than 5.9 million votes from youth voters than John Kerry.
32% more African American voters and 34% more youth voters showed up to cast a ballot for Barrack Obama than John Kerry. This is a huge surge given that overall turnout was higher only by 4% in 2008 than 2004. If John Kerry had preformed as well as Barack Obama among African Americans or young voters, he would have won the popular vote.