RSN August 14 Fundraising
FB Share
Email This Page
add comment
Print

Carpenter reports: "Add this to the list of bad bets the GOP placed this year: that young Americans' support for Barack Obama, and their interest in politics in general, was tenuous enough to break."

Young voters once again voted for the Democrats. (photo: Getty Images)
Young voters once again voted for the Democrats. (photo: Getty Images)


Despite Concerns, Young Voters Tuned In and Turned Out in 2012

By Zoe Carpenter, Nation of Change

08 November 12

 

dd this to the list of bad bets the GOP placed this year: that young Americans' support for Barack Obama, and their interest in politics in general, was tenuous enough to break-and that it could be broken through discouragement and voter suppression, rather than by specific appeals to their concerns.

Twenty-two to 23 million Americans under 30 voted yesterday, with a turnout rate of at least 49 percent among eligible voters. That figure is comparable with the estimate at this time in 2008, which later rose to 52 percent as final results trickled in. Nearly a fifth of all voters were under 30 (19 percent, up from 18 percent in 2008), and they voted for Obama by a twenty-three-point margin, 60 to 37 percent.

The president could not have won without them. An analysis from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) suggests that eighty of Obama's electoral votes depended on the support of young voters. If Romney had captured just half of the youth vote in Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida, those states would have swung red, and those eighty votes would have given Romney the presidency.

"I was pretty much prepared to sound some kind of alarm," CIRCLE's Peter Levine said this morning, referring to projections that youth participation would drop off precipitously in this election. While 2008 was designated as the 'year of the youth vote,' the showing from millennials this year is even more striking given the hurdles young voters had to overcome. Confusion spread by voter ID laws, hours-long waits at the polls, a presidential fight waged in a fraction of the states and shadowed by dark money, and the long slog of the economic recovery, all could have kept young voters from the polls. "They had a choice," said Rock the Vote's president Heather Smith, "to opt out because of frustration. But they understood that people trump money."

And millennials didn't just show up to vote for the president. In California, decidedly not in play as a swing state, young voters made up 27 percent of the electorate, helping to legalize marijuana. Elizabeth Warren won her senate seat with the support of over 60 percent of young voters in Massachusetts. Ballot initiatives legalizing gay marriage passed in Maryland, Maine and Washington.

"This voting block can no longer be an afterthought to any political party or campaign," said Smith, calling strong youth participation 'the new normal" in American politics. Since 2004, about half of all young adults have voted in presidential elections, while through the 1990s turnout hovered near 40 percent.

By 2020, millennials will account for nearly 40 percent of the electorate. They are more diverse than any previous generation, and the single moniker belies the span of their political concerns. These voters are also coming of age in a time when support for gay marriage is not radical but a matter of basic fairness; when a black president is elected not once but twice; and when strong women win the battles for seats in Congress. It wasn't just that the president had a stronger ground game, four years of pro-youth policy and an emotional foundation to run on. It's that Republicans across the board support policies that most young Americans do not.

As I reported last month, the hand-wringing over generational apathy was in part a misreading of criticism from young citizens who will be pushing for a more progressive second term from Obama. Today, it's their votes that matter. But tomorrow, and for years to come, their criticism may prove more valuable. These young voters are the "stubborn thing[s]" the president invoked early this morning in his acceptance speech, who insist "despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us.


 

Comments   

We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.

General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.

Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.

- The RSN Team

 
+12 # fredboy 2012-11-09 07:38
The GOP incorrectly dismisses our youth, assuming that because they partied and didn't give a rat's ass when they were young that should be the case today. Wrong.

I was a professor for 25 years, and every year celebrated the vitality, awareness, and open, considerate thinking shared by young people. Their moral compass was clear and refreshing, and remains so. Good, remarkable people.

The old, white bitterness of the latter years prompted my wife and I to decide to never be old. At 64 and 59, we reject the staid antique and quite bitter and remorseful attitudes of our peers, instead roaming the beaches of life in celebration of all we see and breath and feel there.
 
 
+4 # fredboy 2012-11-09 07:40
The GOP incorrectly dismisses our youth, assuming that because they partied and didn't give a rat's ass when they were young that should be the case today. Wrong.

I was a professor for 25 years, and every year celebrated the vitality, awareness, and open, considerate thinking shared by young people. Their moral compass was clear and refreshing, and remains so. Good, remarkable people.

The old, white bitterness of the latter years prompted my wife and I to decide to never be old. At 64 and 59, we reject the staid antique and quite bitter and remorseful attitudes of our peers, instead roaming the beaches of life in celebration of all we see and breathe and feel there.
 
 
+4 # goodsensecynic 2012-11-09 10:21
[quote name="fredboy"] "... never be old..."

At 67, I am decidedly more bitter, remorseful and angry than I was at, say 22, during the "Summer of love!" I am also defying the demand to be old. Instead, I find time to walk some picket lines, support the Occupy movement and work for left-wing politicians.

What I'm BR&A about are the hippies and dippies and yippies who got scared out of their wits by Kent State, went dancing with the BeeGees, and became Gordon Gecko wannabes.

Good grief! The T-baggers are largely the age of Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger, and they've outlived Jim Morrison, Phil Ochs and John Lennon only through various sorts of tragedy. What happened?

I may be impatient with young people with their addiction to distraction (tweets) and their lousy formula music, BUT at least they haven't completely sold out yet (perhaps because no one's buying).

As long as they keep "roaming the beaches," occasionally opening their eyes to better ways to do thing (e.g. "European socialism" for a start), and as long as they do better than the "baby boomers" (of whom I am proudly NOT one) who so totally crapped out on the "Age of Aquarius" to became at least as draconian as their parents, there may be (dare I say it?) some hope.
 
 
+3 # tbcrawford 2012-11-09 11:29
The young are amazing...espec ially now with so many roadblocks in their way. I cheer, take encouragement, wonder at these future leaders and their peers...and therein lies our great hope for the future. Thank you!!!
 
 
+3 # reiverpacific 2012-11-09 11:38
@"goodsensecynic"
Interesting comment, much of which I relate to.
I'm an ol' Scottish Labor activist who has been jailed, beaten (and hit back a bit, even at Cops and US Marines at the Holy Loch) and your post resonated strangely with my memory.
I had friends in Scotland who were Thatcherite Tories (a rarity in a mostly Socialist nation) and they grew to be intractable, blinkered conservatives with whom I've severed ties -they bored me latterly in their materialistic "You are what you drive" lives, their sons go to an elitist private school -they had them down from birth. They are example of what you describe as what became the Tea-Baggers here but are too complacent (and empty) to be activist in their well-padded smugness.
I remember coming to the USA on a visit in 1972 -mostly to the California of the time, and it was great, -a real feeling of endless possibility. But an executive secretary I know in Portland OR, now the living image of a trophy wife, was a hippie in Haight-Ashbury in the good ol' days. So we lose a few to the dark side if we don't keep our passions fueled up.
My daughter has become a good l'il activist in Madison Wis' running food into the occupiers of the Capitol during the Scott Walker protests and working on Tammy Baldwin's successful campaign. I am proud of this as I, like you, still turn out for progressive causes (I'm not a citizen). She has seen me active and followed the example, which is all we can do.
 

THE NEW STREAMLINED RSN LOGIN PROCESS: Register once, then login and you are ready to comment. All you need is a Username and a Password of your choosing and you are free to comment whenever you like! Welcome to the Reader Supported News community.

RSNRSN