Youth turnout

Oddly enough, I get regular requests from infographic creators to include them on my blog.  More of than not, the graphics are cool, but not really fitting with something I want to say.  In this case, this infographic on turnout has an interesting summary of social media usage among Obama and Romney voters.  Now, I wouldn’t say Obama “won” due to social media, but it certainly speaks to his much greater appeal to and outreach towards younger voters. Here’s the key part:


And this fits nicely with a post from a friend, Alan Reifman, at Texas Tech from my days there (he’s in health psychology but a political junkie).  The youth vote was a huge story in 2008, but largely ignored in post-election analysis this year– I think largely taken as a given.  But, there had been many stories suggesting that there would surely be a huge come-down from 2008.  Actually, not so much.  Reifman:

According to the research group CIRCLE, which studies youth civic engagement, an estimated 50% of eligible 18-29 year-olds voted in the 2012 election. This figure is only slightly shy of the 52% turnout of this age group in 2008.

Further, 18-29 year-olds comprised 19% of the 2012 electorate, according to exit polls reported by In 2008, the 18-29 group made up 18% of voters.

CIRCLE director Peter Levine was quoted as follows: “Confounding almost all predictions, the youth vote held up in 2012 and yet again was the deciding factor in determining which candidate was elected President of the United States.”

In the closing weeks of the 2012 campaign, several observers suggested that many young Obama voters from 2008 were now becoming “disillusioned” with the President, and would either switch to voting for the Republican Mitt Romney or skip voting altogether (herehere, and here).

Instead, voters age 18-29 gave Obama a strong majority over Romney last Tuesday, 60% to 37%. This year’s pro-Obama margin among the young was not quite as extreme as his 66%-32% rout of Republican John McCain in 2008, but was still decisive.

In fact, CIRCLE contends that the 18-29 year-old vote was crucial to Obama’s victories last Tuesday in the crucial swing states of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

Now, we just need those young people to vote again in 2014.  Alas, probably not going to happen.  Though, a reasonable goal is to prevent a drop-off as precipitous as the 2008 to 2010 drop-off (here’s Tomasky on the problem).


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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