With the exception of NY, most of the primary states witnessed dramatically more active youth participation in the primaries than in 2000 with many states doubling, tripling or even quintupling their under-30 voter turnout (as a percentage of votes cast).
- In my home state of Massachusetts, the youth vote in the 2008 primary doubled from the 2000 with an estimate that 25% voters under age 30 voted this year, compared with 11% in the 2000 primary.
- In Tennessee the youth vote quintupled from 3% in 2000 to 15% on Super Tuesday.
- In Georgia, 280,000 voters under age 30 voted on Super Tuesday, a tripling in the turnout rate to 21% from the 7% that voted in the 2000 Georgia primary.
- The youth vote tripled in Missouri, and Oklahoma and doubled in Connecticut relative to 2000.
All these states also saw big increases in the NUMBERS of youth voting, but increases in the number of youth voting vs. 2000 are less impressive since the race in 2008 is far more competitive than the primaries in 2000 that led to Al Gore’s nomination, leading more voters to vote, regardless of their age. But the increase in youth turnout (as a percentage of all votes cast) is much more impressive, since there is no inherent reason to believe that competitive races would boost young adult turnout more than other age demographics.
NY was a noticeable exception where the youth vote remained flat at 12%.
I haven’t seen the data, but Steven Stark, Boston Phoenix blogger and Real Politics contributor, asserted that in Massachusetts, youth voter turnout was up in college towns, but not elsewhere. If this was true, I’m not sure if the increases in these other states also reflect increases most heavily centered on college towns.
CIRCLE (the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) released a helpful summary report of youth voting here.
That’s the glass half-full picture, but it is important to note that even with these dramatic gains in youth turnout, youth under age 30 are still participating at a fraction (sometimes less than half) of the rate of other adult Americans. For example, in OK 14% of youth under 30 voting vs. 33% overall, or 11% of youth under 30 in Arkansas vs. 25% overall turnout or 18% youth turnout in Illinois vs. 32% overall.
So despite youth turning out at higher rates, they are still having far less voice than their share of the population would signify. It’s as if you imagined this demographic speaking through a megaphone turned the wrong way so whatever they say becomes weaker not stronger. I hope the youth vote increases can continue so they can eventually have the same clout that they should and their inspiration, passion, vision, environmentalism and tolerance can translate into national leadership that accords with their values.
Note: CIRCLE indicates that these are all based on estimates. “Because there is no actual count of the number of votes cast by young people in the primaries, we can only estimate their level of participation. Our turnout estimates are based on early vote tallies reported by the media, the share of voters who are young calculated by the National Election Pool exit/entrance polls, and an estimate of the eligible voting population obtained from the Census Current Population Survey (CPS). The 2008 voter turnout rate may rise as more votes are tallied. (The early vote tally does not include such votes as absentee ballots and provisional ballots.) As a result, our 2008 turnout rate likely underestimates the level of participation in the 2008 Super Tuesday primaries.”