CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
Stay Connected:
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

National Exit Polls Report Youth Represented 18 Percent of Voters

November 4th, 2008
Tweet
Share
Email to a Friend

Young voters favor Obama over McCain by 66% to 32%

Conference Call-in Press Briefing to Discuss 2008 Youth Vote, 2 PM ET, Nov. 5
Dial-in number is 877-844-6052 (no access code needed).

Medford/Somerville, MA –  Young people (ages 18-29) represented 18 percent of the voters in today’s election, according to the early released National Exit Polls (NEP) conducted by Edison/Mitofsky. This is the one point higher than in 1996, 2000, and 2004, when young voters represented 17 percent of voters in each presidential election, according to the NEP. However, this number does not indicate how many young people voted or whether there was a rise in youth turnout. In recent elections, the youth share of the vote remained constant, because youth turnout rose at the same rate as the total turnout. See the table below for more information on the difference between turnout and share.

“Voting is not a race between young people and older people,” said CIRCLE Director Peter Levine. “Young people have seen a slight increase in their share of the vote in a year of strong turnout. That represents a notable increase in youth engagement.”

Young people represent about 21% of the voting-eligible population, according to analysis of Census data by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).

Early tomorrow morning, numbers on youth voter turnout will be available. The 2008 youth voter turnout is the only number that represents whether or not there was an increase in youth voting this election. The below chart highlights the difference in the two numbers.  The youth share (percentage of voters who are young) has stayed steady since 1996 as more people of every age have voted.  Youth turnout, on the other hand, has grown consistently, with nearly half of all 18-29 year olds voting in the 2004 election.

  Youth share (percentage of voters who were young) from Edison/Mitofsky National Exit Polls Youth Turnout (percentage of young citizens who voted), estimated by CIRCLE using exit poll data
1996 17% 37%
2000 17% 41%
2004 17% 48%
2008 18% To be released Nov. 5

There is no official count of voters by age. Therefore, any statistic on youth share or youth voter turnout is an estimate based on survey data. Like any survey, the National Exit Polls use methods that may introduce sampling bias. However, our estimates of youth turnout from the National Exit Polls (shown above) have produced a trend that closely tracks the trend in the Census Current Population Survey (CPS), which is the other reliable source for estimating youth turnout. Since CPS voting data for 2008 will not be available until spring 2009, our method produces the only current  and reliable estimate of youth turnout.

Young voters preferred Obama

Young voters diverged sharply from the population as a whole, preferring Obama/Biden over McCain/Palin by 66% to 32% in the NEP. This is by far the highest share of the youth vote obtained by any candidate since exit polls began reporting results by age categories in 1976. In past elections from 1976 through 2004, young voters diverged by an average of only 1.8 percentage points from the popular vote as a whole. 2004 had set the previous record for an age gap.

year Democratic candidate’s share of the under-30 vote (exit polls) Democratic candidate’s share of the popular vote  (Federal Election Commission) difference
1976 51% 50.0% +1.0%
1980 44% 41.0% +3.0%
1984 40% 40.4% -0.4%
1988 47% 45.5% +1.5%
1992 43% 42.9% +0.1%
1996 53% 49.2% +3.8%
2000 48% 48.3% -0.3%
2004 54% 48.1% +5.9%
2008 66% projected to be 52% +14%

Find more analysis in our 2016 Election Center. For regular updates in your Inbox about youth and the 2016 election, sign up for CIRCLE's monthly E-Update here.

62 Responses to “National Exit Polls Report Youth Represented 18 Percent of Voters”

  1. giochi Says:

    Very interesting article. Thank you

  2. In Ear Kopfhörer Says:

    I am believing in Obama and am sure that he will move even bigger things than he already did.

  3. stackable birthstone rings Says:

    The fact that Obama can motivate more youths to vote actually speaks volume for the kind of charisma and chemistry that our current President has.

  4. Adsense Information Says:

    I strongly support Obama, he made a new history of the presidency in america. I hope Obama better than Bush. and I really hope Obama stop the war on this Earth. Because, many victims in the war. including American soldiers.

  5. ClubPenguinCheats Says:

    The below chart highlights the difference in the two numbers. The youth share (percentage of voters who are young) has stayed steady since 1996 as more people of every age have voted. Youth turnout, on the other hand, has grown consistently, with nearly half of all 18-29 year olds voting in the 2004 election. What a numbers. I hope they are correct.

  6. unshaved amateur xxx Says:

    unshaved amateur xxx

  7. Ann Says:

    Ask for Obama:
    Will we ever see high-speed passenger rail service in the U.S.?

  8. Ned Gary Says:

    Hey Ann,
    ask Obama on other site.

  9. james Says:

    Youth are our future and they should participate in things that decide and lead the future of our nation.

  10. Vintage go kart Says:

    Thank you for this analysis because I’m student of sociological department and I need such surveys for my diploma. I think I can take this subject for the basis. Keep up your work.

  11. Los jóvenes abandonaron a los republicanos: Analistas | Hacia el Voto 2010 Says:

    […] encuesta nacional encontró la misma tendencia en el total del voto nacional para representantes a la cámara baja. […]

  12. hats shop Says:

    I wasn’t surprised by these statistics ONE BIT – it’s obvious why Obama was more popular with the younger generation. He could relate to them more, with his own youth. He was also charismatic, witty and well spoken which are attributed the younger generation like especially.