Youth Vote Epilogue
The Kids are Alright
“Yesterday more young people voted than in any election since 18 year olds won the right to vote in 1972. This is truly a remarkable moment; young people have spoken and elected the next president,” said Heather Smith, executive director, Rock the Vote. “No longer can pundits and politicians say we don’t vote. The face of our democracy is forever changed and young people have shown the world we are taking our country into our own hands.”
It is beyond symbolic that the very park in Chicago that was the scene of the riots that accompanied the shocking lack of democracy during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, with Connecticut Senator Abe Ribicoff calling out the police tactics from the podium, to the consternation of Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, would be the staging ground for young and old to celebrate their participation in reshaping our democracy.
Rock The Vote is reporting that approximately 24 million 18-29 year olds cast ballots in this historic election, a turnout rate of 55%, up 6 percentage points from 2004.
And according to Circle, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, the Youth Vote formed a major part of the winning coalition, selecting Barack Obama by more than a 2- to- 1 margin. 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.
Across the country, young voters’ turnout made a significant impact on close races in battleground states. In Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and other states, young people propelled Barack Obama to victory. Nationwide, 66% of 18-29 year olds voted for the President-Elect; state-by-state, this strong support made the difference in a number of contests.
Yesterday’s record turnout marks the third major election in a row with increased young voter turnout. In 2004, the youth turnout rate was 49%, an increase of 9% points over the 2000 election; in 2006, young voters turnout went up by 3% points over 2002. On November 4th, 18-29 year olds’ turnout rate increased by 6% points over 2004 levels, resulting in 4 million more young voters than in 2004. “We’ll now take this incredible energy and momentum and demand action on the issues young people care about such as the economy, the war in Iraq, heath care, voting rights, and the environment,” Smith commented. “This is only the beginning.”
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