CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
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New Census Data Confirm Increase in Youth Voter Turnout In 2008 Election

April 28th, 2009
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Youth Voter Turnout Rate Rose to 51.1 Percent, Third Highest Rate Ever: 2 Million More Young People Voted Than in 2004

The fact sheet on youth voter turnout and trends in 2008 and a 50-state breakdown can be downloaded here (PDF). The press release is here.

Tisch College, Tufts University — Nearly two million more young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 presidential elections as compared to the 2004 elections, according to new Census data analyzed and released by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Tisch College.

The increase is a continuation of the trend observed in the 2004 and 2006 elections. Youth turnout was 11 percentage points higher than in 1996, which was the low point after decades of decline. While young people increased their turnout significantly in 2008, older adults voted at lower rates than in 2004 and only slightly above their 2000 level.

Although overall youth turnout was high in the 2008 presidential election, there were important differences in turnout rates. Young African Americans posted the highest turnout rate ever observed for any racial or ethnic group of young Americans since 1972.

The gap in turnout by educational attainment remained large; voter turnout of young people without college experience was 36%, compared to a 62% rate among young people with college experience. (About half of the young adult population has some college experience.) There was also a significant gender gap in turnout: young women voted at a rate eight points above young men.

“We have now seen three consecutive presidential elections with substantial increases in youth turnout,” said CIRCLE Director Peter Levine. “We appear to have entered a new era of stronger youth engagement—also shown by high rates of volunteering and community service. But there are persistent gaps in engagement, with less advantaged youth still mostly left out. We must find ways to engage and expand civic opportunities for this cohort of young people.”

Presidential Election Year 18-24 Citizens 25 and older Citizens 18-29 Citizens 30 and older Citizens
1972 52.1% 68.4% 55.4% 69.5%
1976 44.4% 65.4% 48.8% 67.0%
1980 43.4% 68.5% 48.2% 70.6%
1984 44.3% 68.9% 49.1% 71.2%
1988 39.9% 65.8% 43.8% 68.5%
1992 48.6% 70.5% 52.0% 72.4%
1996 35.6% 61.6% 39.6% 63.6%
2000 36.1% 62.9% 40.3% 64.6%
2004 46.7% 66.3% 49.0% 67.7%
2008 48.5% 65.8% 51.1% 67.0%

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.

101 Responses to “New Census Data Confirm Increase in Youth Voter Turnout In 2008 Election”

  1. Youth voter turnout from 1972-2008 | Elections Says:

    […] is a graphic compiled from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement to show the changes in the youth vote (ages 18-24) during the past few […]