The Latest

How voter suppression backfired for the GOP

Nov 9, 2012| By: PNA Staff

As Republican leaders consider the party's future in the midst of President Obama's resounding victory among African-American, Asian and Latino voters this week, it's worth considering how the GOP got here in the first place.

Although communities of color are growing as a percentage of the population, the Romney campaign bet on these groups staying home in 2012. Their belief was based on an erroneous assumption that these voters would be unenthusiastic about voting for President Obama (actually, they were very enthusiastic), but also by widespread efforts around the country to make voting more difficult.

These efforts to create barriers to voting disproportionately affected communities of color, particularly Hispanic and African-American communities.

As it turns out, however, post-election anecdotes from around the country are confirming what PNA research has shown for months: that these efforts to suppress the vote actually motivated scores of voters to come to the polls.

In late September, PNA conducted research across five battleground states (AZ, CO, FL, NV and NM) among sporadic, less-likely voters who lean Democratic. The goal was to find ways to motivate this group (which included a large number of Latinos, African-Americans and younger voters) to cast their ballots.

We tested over 30 different messages about the importance of voting, from single-issue appeals like women's health to broad arguments about economic fairness.

What we found was that one of most powerful messages across many different demographics was reminding people that their votes were important to counter the extremists who are kicking people off of voter rolls. PNA subscribers used this data in a variety of ways to inform their final direct voter contact operations.

What happened on Tuesday suggests that the right-wing effort to reduce voter turnout has backfired. Communities of color made up 28% of the overall electorate this year, up from 26% in 2008.  Various exit polls show that President Obama won between 70 and 90 percent of Latino voters, and over 90% of African-American voters.

What's more, many of these voters endured obstacles like prohibitively long lines and the dissemination of misinformation in order to cast their votes.

As the Republican Party ponders how it now reaches out to the communities it has turned off this year, a good first step would be to stop trying to prevent people from voting.  This is bound to backfire and push more voters to Democrats.

Project New America