The youth vote in 2012

Very nice report from Pew looking at the youth vote in 2012 and compared to earlier elections.  Here’s the key chart:

And some of the analysis:

In winning reelection, Barack Obama won 60% of the vote among those younger than 30. That was down somewhat from 2008, when Obama won nearly two-thirds (66%) of the votes of young people. However, Obama’s youth support may have been an even more important factor in his victory this year than it was in 2008.

The divide between young voters and older voters was as stark this year as it was in 2008. While Obama lost ground among voters younger than 30, he still won this age group by 24 points over Mitt Romney (60% to 36%). He also maintained a slimmer advantage among voters 30 to 44 (52% Obama, 45% Romney), while losing ground among those 45 to 64 and those 65 and older.

Among all voters 30 and older, Obama ran behind Mitt Romney (48% for Obama, 50% for Romney). Four years ago, Obama edged John McCain, 50% to 49%, among all 30+ voters.

And here’s the news that bodes very well for the Democrats’ future:

His losses among young voters since 2008 might have been even greater, but for the fact that the under 30s are by far the most racially and ethnically diverse age group. Just 58% are white non-Hispanic, compared with 76% of voters older than 30  [emphasis mine]. A recent report by Pew Social and Demographic Trends found that minorities are on track to become a majority of the overall population by 2050.

And they have the liberal issue preferences that fit with the Democratic Party as well:

Young voters continue to identify with the Democratic Party at relatively high levels and express more liberal attitudes on a range of issues – from gay marriage to the role of the federal government – than do older voters. In fact, voters under 30 were as likely to identify as Democrats in the 2012 exit poll as they had been in 2008 (44% now, 45% then). And they are the only age group in which a majority said that the government should do more to solve problems.

Now, the Republicans aren’t stupid (okay, some of them are) and historically parties adapting to a changing political landscape.  Surely the Republican Party will make strategic choices to win over some of these younger voters.  Nonetheless, partisanship does tend to be fairly stable over the life cycle, thus barring any major changes, Democrats look to have a continued and probably growing partisan advantage for years to come

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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