the youth vote in the media

I think the press has been doing a good job covering the youth vote. That is by no means guaranteed. In 2004, youth turnout rose, but the dominant storyline held that youth voting had declined. The narrow reason for this error was a confusion between the share of the vote and the turnout rate, which are different statistics. The bigger reason was a need to explain why Bush won. It was too complicated to say that youth voted for Kerry but were simply outnumbered in the population. Instead, reporters went straight to the assumption that youth didn’t vote.

This time, I count 95 separate news articles (since Oct. 19) that cite CIRCLE. That is by no means a complete count of youth voting articles–reporters are free to write about youth without citing us–but I receive lists of stories that name us, and that is my sample.

Before Election Day, most articles were about the likely decline of youth turnout. That was a mistaken premise but not one that I challenged directly, because I also suspected turnout would fall. I only suggested that we should be hesitant to predict turnout based on very scanty polling evidence. Not because of me, but to their credit, most reporters hedged their predictions of decline. For instance, Tony Pugh wrote a McClatchy wire service story that began:

The love affair between young voters and President Barack Obama that ignited his candidacy in 2008 and powered him to the White House seems like a distant memory in 2012.

As Election Day approaches, there’s an enthusiasm gap among young voters.

But he also quoted our friend Rob “Biko” Baker of the League of Young Voters on efforts to rekindle enthusiasm.

Since Election Night, the vast majorities of stories have been about youth as an essential part of Obama’s winning coalition, and how Republicans are in trouble if they don’t try to build a younger and more diverse constituency. As I told the Inquirer newspapers, “It is because [Mitt Romney] lost the youth vote pretty decisively in all those battleground states that he is not going to be the next president of the United States.”

I am amused by the cliche of the “new normal”:

“In 2012, communities of color, young people and women are not merely interest groups, they’re the ‘new normal’ demographic of the American electorate,” said Janet Murguia, president of the National Council of La Raza. …

I also used the cliche, as in USA Today:

CIRCLE director Peter Levine said turnout for young voters has increased over the last three elections – averaging what he called a “new normal” of about 50 percent – and making the once not-so-reliable voting segment now an “essential political bloc.”

Two especially insightful and heavily researched pieces are by Rebecca Rosen in the Atlantic, on the effect of social media, and by Reid Cherlin in GQ on the Obama campaign’s outreach strategies.

Finally, here I am on Huffington Post live, talking about how the GOP lost the youth vote: