UPDATED: Youth voter turnout in NH Primary ties the record-breaking participation in 2008: Turnout propelled by Republican youth participation
New Hampshire youth have historically responded to the attention paid to their state with high turnout, and 2016 was no different. CIRCLE estimates that 43% of young people, ages 18-29, in New Hampshire participated in yesterday’s primary. Young people helped both of the primary winners, preferring them over other candidates. In the case of Senator Bernie Sanders, youth support continued to be as high as in the Iowa caucuses (83% in NH, 84% in IA), while youth participating in the Republican primary were most likely to support winner Donald Trump (37%)
While data is important for understanding youth participation in the New Hampshire primary, views from the ground are also critical. CIRCLE gathered several reflections from practitioners working with youth in New Hampshire that provide insight into education and outreach efforts by educators, media, and nonprofits.
High Participation by Young People in New Hampshire
According to the exit polls, young people made up 17% of primary voters (19% of Democratic primary and 15% of Republican primary) in 2016, a total estimate of over 88,000 young people. This represents the largest number of young people participating in the primaries, and the largest proportion of the electorate, in the past 20 years of New Hampshire primaries. The estimated turnout among youth of 43% ties the tremendous turnout in 2008, and both are far above another comparable primary in 2000, which recorded a 28% turnout. It’s important to remember that New Hampshire’s primary is semi-open, and any unaffiliated registered voter can participate. That may be especially critical for young people, who have eschewed party affiliation nationally.
Republican Youth Set Another Record, Raise Overall Youth Turnout
More New Hampshire youth participated in yesterday’s Democratic primary than in the Republican primary. However, more youth participated in this New Hampshire Republican primary than any other year since 1996. After the Iowa caucuses, this is the second 2016 Republican contest in a row to set a youth turnout record. Compared to the 2008 election cycle, when both major parties had a competitive primary, the number of youth voting in the Republican primary went up (33,014 in 2008 to 42,616 in 2016), while Democratic youth turnout went down (51,218 in 2008 to 46,895 in 2016).
Young People Boost Sanders and Trump Wins
Young people participating in the New Hampshire Democratic primary were far more likely than other age groups to support Senator Sanders: 83% of young voters versus 60% of all voters. While youth made up almost one-fifth of yesterday’s Democratic primary voters, over a quarter of Sanders’ votes came from young people. Youth support for Sanders exceeded the youth support for then-Senator Obama in 2008. The only age cohort that preferred Secretary Clinton yesterday was those 65 and over. On the Democratic side in 2008, 60% of the youngest cohort (18 to 24-year-olds) supported then-Senator Obama, while 25 to 29-year olds roughly split their support between then-Senators Obama and Clinton (35% to 37%).
By a small margin, youth were more likely than older voters to support Trump in yesterday’s Republican primary: 37% among young voters versus 35% among all voters. That said, as in Iowa, a plurality of youth did not coalesce around one candidate; five candidates, including Trump, received double-digit support. That contrasts with the New Hampshire primary in 2012, when youth favored Ron Paul over eventual nominee Mitt Romney, 46% to 26%.
Stay tuned today for more analysis from CIRCLE on youth participation in the New Hampshire primary, a key state in the general election according to CIRCLE’s Youth Electoral Significance Index. The youth populations in South Carolina and Nevada are quite different than Iowa and New Hampshire, and we’ll preview historical participation in these key states over the next week.