Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Medford, MA – Now that the dust has settled from a record turnout of young voters, new research reveals young Americans voted for Obama across party and racial lines, but youth with no college experience were underrepresented at the polls, according to Tisch College’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.
All the data are included in a new CIRCLE Fact Sheet.
An estimated 23 million young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 presidential election, 3.4 million more voters as compared to the 2004. CIRCLE estimated youth voter turnout rose to between 52 percent and 53 percent, an increase of four to five percentage points. Compared to 2000, the increase in youth turnout is at least 11 percentage points.
The 18-29 age voting bloc is more diverse than older voters—youth voters classified themselves as Hispanic/Latino, black, and gay, lesbian, or bisexual in much larger proportions than the electorate as a whole.
Unfortunately, young voter turnout remains skewed towards those with more formal education. For instance, while just 57 percent of U.S. citizens under 30 have ever attended college, 70 percent of all young voters had gone to college. The same disproportion can be seen when looking at those without a high school diploma. While youth with no high school diploma make up 14 percent of the general youth population, only six percent of young voters in 2008 had no high school diploma.
One of the most striking characteristics of this election was young people’s united support for Barack Obama, regardless of their political affiliations. Thirty-three percent of young white voters self-identified as “Democrat,” and yet, 54 percent voted for the Democratic candidate. Similar trends were seen with African Americans and Latinos, where a large number of youth self-identified as Republicans yet voted for Barack Obama, signifying youth support for Obama seemed to cross racial and partisan lines.
Young women voters also came out to the polls in larger numbers—55 percent of young voters were women, which was consistent with the overall trend (53 percent of all votes were cast by women). This trend, however, was especially strong for young Black voters, 61 percent of whom were women.
The economy was a top issue for young people, as it was for adults. Youth were more likely to oppose U.S. offshore oil drilling (39 percent versus 28 percent of all voters). More young people said a candidate’s race was a factor than the general voting population (24 percent versus 19 percent). Almost half of young voters said they would be “excited” if Obama won, as compared to 30 percent of the overall electorate, and just 20 percent of voters over the age of 60.