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March 3, 2004

young voters in Super Tuesday

CIRCLE folks were up late last night and early this morning crunching turnout figures for the 2004 primaries (and 2000, for comparison). We've posted a new fact sheet with all the information you could ask for. In short, turnout was relatively low yesterday for all age groups, probably because the last rounds of Kerry v Edwards just weren't that exciting. Under-30 voters accounted for about 10 percent of the turnout in this primary season, the same as in 2000 (but much lower than their share of the population). Since overall turnout was down, fewer young people cast votes in Democratic primaries this year than in 2000. I don't think this means anything about the state of youth politics--it has more to do with the contingencies and rhythms of this particular campaign season. We may still see a big increase in youth voting in November.

March 3, 2004 4:13 PM | category: none


I am curious, what do you mean by the "contingencies and rhythms of this particular campaign season"?
And do you believe that the media predicting who will be the candidate impacts whether or not youth vote? As a younger voter myself (23 yrs old) I have been very disapointed with the media "telling" us that Kerry had the nomination wrapped up (long before Super Tuesday). For my generation who is very used to being letdown, I think this may have an impact.
I'd be interested in hearing more about what you have to say on youth turnout for this primary season...

March 4, 2004 12:11 PM | Comments (2) | posted by Jake


Thanks for your question and your good blog. I absolutely agree that reporters depress interest in elections by forecasting the results. They do this relentlessly. The vast majority of stories, for example in the New York Times, treat the campaign as a horse race, telling us who's ahead, what challenges each candidate will face next week or next month, and who is most likely to win. This is not the proper job of the press. Reporters should rather help us to decide whom to vote for. To that end, they should describe candidates' proposals, give us background information on issues, and report the diverse opinions of experts and ordinary citizens.

As for the rhythms of this campaign--I don't have an elaborate or complete analysis. However, just for instance, California voted this year AFTER the nomination appeared to be sewn up. No Democratic candidate bought any advertising in the state, because it was seen as safe for Kerry. Probably as a result, one million fewer people voted in the California Democratic Primary in 2004 than in 2000, completely burying the turnout increases in small states like IA and NH. In general, the new calendar was designed to wrap up the nomination early, which meant that only states with small populations had a big impact. Youth turnout quadrupled in Iowa but then fell sharply in big states like NY and CA. To me, this says something about the primary calendar, but little about youth interest in politics.

March 4, 2004 9:55 PM | Comments (2) | posted by Peter Levine

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