I previously reported Current Population Survey data that showed that the youth voting turnout was up from 2004 to 2008 and that non-whites voted at record rates in 2008. I just saw the intersection of these two trends: e.g., breakouts of voting turnout by ethnic group and then within ethnic group by age.
The bottom line is that the increase in youth turnout in 2008 was all concentrated among non-whites. For 18-29 year old (non-hispanic) whites, voting was essentially flat; for 18-29 year old blacks, voting rates increased from 2004-2008 by 18%, for young Hispanics (18-29) by 15% and for young Asians voting rates increased by 26% in just one presidential election from 2004 to 2008! I haven’t seen these further broken out by education but my hunch is that a disproportionate share of this may be among more well-educated non-whites, based on CIRCLE’s report on this.
For a picture of these trends (not the VTAG), click on this link. CPS Voting Turnout 2004-08 by age and ethnicity
Moreover, if one looks across age groups, one sees in general that the voting increases were much more concentrated among 18-29 year olds; blacks were the only racial group where voting turnout rates increased from 2004 to 2008 among all age cohorts.
Finally, voting turnout age gradients [VTAG] (the rate at which 65+ folks in that racial group vote relative to 18-29 year olds) closed in all racial groups other than whites. For whites, voting rates remained some 40% higher for 65+ year olds (or a VTAG gradient of 1.4). Among blacks, the voting turnout age gradient declined from 1.34 to 1.17 (i.e., 65+ year old blacks still are 17% more likely to vote than 18-29 year old blacks), for Hispanics the VTAG declined from 1.61 to 1.38 and the voting turnout age gradient essentially disappeared among Asians, going from 1.41 to 1.05 from 2004 to 2008.
While these trends are certainly good news from the perspective of reducing the biases in our democratic system, they still leave a system heavily biased towards senior concerns. If seniors are 60-80% more likely to vote than 18-29 year olds, it is little wonder that AARP has such power and that our national policies distort the benefits of what is paid out to seniors versus what is invested in younger Americans. [Interestingly, this parallels David Willetts’ intergenerational equity argument in The Pinch that I was explaining the other day.] Of course, these voter gradients (distortions in voice) need to get to 1.0 and the groups have to be of similar size to stop these inter-generational distortions. And among whites (who are still represent three-quarters of the voting ranks), seniors are still voting 40% more frequently than young adults. So we still have a long way to go.