Youth turnout up, decisive

by Matt Sledge // Published November 6, 2008
Cross-posted at Rhode Island's Future.

One objection that's sometimes raised about youth voter pre-registration in Rhode Island's General Assembly is that young voters are apathetic, and they won't take advantage of pre-registration even if we implement it.

Since pre-registration would cost next to nothing, I've never understood what the point of this argument is. Especially since the data from Florida (where pre-registration was recently started) seem to show a significant increase in youth turnout due to pre-registration.

The think tank CIRCLE estimates that the percentage of youths turning out was up by as much as 6% over the 2004 fraction and 13% over 2000

And yes, those younger voters broke overwhelmingly for President-elect Obama, by a 2-to-1 margin. That probably played a decisive role in several close swing states (like my home state of Indiana).

Before Democrats start getting too cocky about their "emerging majority," they should remember that neither major political party has historically owned this demographic bloc. A host of unique factors--including the Obama campaign's groundbreaking use of the internet--combined to make this election unlike any ever seen before. According to CIRCLE,

Young voters favored the winner of this election by more than a two-to-one margin, forming a major part of the winning coalition. Overall, voters chose Obama over McCain by a much narrower margin of about 52% to 46%. This gap in presidential choice by age is unprecedented. The average gap from 1976 through 2004 was only 1.8 percentage points, as young voters basically supported the same candidate as older voters in most elections.
Obama's dominance among young voters was yet another exception in his historic, rule-breaking run