Youth Support for GOP Candidates Significantly Down from Obama’s Youth Votes in ’08 Primaries
The shape of the youth vote in the Republican primary campaign is beginning to emerge. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) has calculated exclusive estimates of the total number of voters under age 30 who supported the Republican candidates in all states where exit or entrance polls have been conducted so far.
According to our estimates, Rep. Ron Paul held a clear lead in the youth vote until data from Michigan and Arizona put former Gov. Mitt Romney slightly ahead. Former Sen. Rick Santorum and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have lagged consistently behind. Their totals coming into Super Tuesday are: Romney 115,000, Paul 112,000, Santorum 74,000 and Gingrich 44,500.
Although Paul’s youth support continues to draw media attention and Romney’s popularity among the demographic is advancing, Barack Obama drew far more votes in primaries and caucuses from Americans under 30 in his 2008 campaign than all the Republican candidates combined. In fact, both Paul and Romney have drawn only a bit more than half as many votes as Obama did at this point in his 2008 campaign. By this time in the 2008 election, Obama had 200,000 votes from young people. Overall, the Democratic primary campaign of 2008 produced a much higher turnout than the Republican primary campaign of 2012: 477,000 votes versus 360,000 votes so far.
The turnout difference between 2008 and 2012 could be a sign that youth engagement has declined, but it could also be an indication that young people remain largely in the Democratic column today, after supporting Obama by a 68-32% margin in 2008 and then choosing Democratic House candidates over Republicans by a 57-40% margin in 2010.
CIRCLE will provide a youth voter turnout estimate for Super Tuesday states for which there is an exit poll on Wednesday, March 7.