youth voting update

(Atlanta) While I am here for meetings on state standards, CIRCLE has been churning out press releases related to youth voting in the primaries and caucuses (and getting a fair amount of coverage). Notwithstanding my recent critique of horse-race campaign coverage, we do try to provide solid and timely information about young voters–to set the record straight and to help young people draw attention that may translate into political importance.

So far, I think these are some of the highlights:

Youth turnout in Iowa was just 4%, but that’s rather typical of the Caucuses. The outlier year was 2008. It helped that youth could vote in either the Democratic or Republican Caucuses in ’08, but Barack Obama’s 30,000+ young voters pushed it to record-setting heights.

This year, although not a huge number of young Iowans participated, they concentrated their votes for Ron Paul (who drew 48%: far more than anyone else), thereby affecting the result. If you subtracted Paul’s roughly 8,800 young voters from his total, he’d have fallen behind Newt Gingrich there.

Some people have been analogizing the Ron Paul youth phenomenon of 2012 to the Obama surge of 2008, but it’s important to recognize that Obama drew 3-4 times as many young voters.

In New Hampshire, we show that youth voting and engagement are normally high, making young voters a potentially important part of that primary as well. In ’08, their preferred candidate (Barack Obama) lost, but youth turnout was very strong. It’s not clear whom they will support next Tuesday–or, indeed, whether New Hampshire will be interesting, since some polls are predicting a Romney blowout.

Even though I disparage prognostication, I tend to think that this year’s primary season is basically over, with the apparent “race” between Romney and his opponents now a bit of a ritual rather than a suspense-inducing choice. But the earlier stages of the Republican race were full of surprises, so who knows?

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.