Blacks made up 13 percent of the electorate this year, about the same as 2008, while participation among whites shrank slightly to 72 percent and Hispanics increased to 10 percent, national exit polls showed. Black leaders point to that minority participation as they sharpen their calls for initiatives to address black unemployment, which was 12.7 percent when Obama took office, peaked at 16.5 percent roughly a year later, and stood at 14.3 percent in October. The overall unemployment rate is 7.9 percent.
National Urban League President Marc Morial acknowledged in an interview that "we sweated turnout all the way to the end," because the country's underlying economic conditions made it tougher to mobilize black voters. Within days of the election, Morial sent to Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., an "urgent petition" asking that Obama's second term focus on economic opportunity and income inequality.
A jobs program should emphasize infrastructure and public works, broadband technology and energy "with a special focus on those communities where unemployment is and remains stubbornly and persistently high," Morial's letter said.
"We who represent the nation's urban communities will demand a seat at the table in these discussions," he wrote.