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November 5, 2008

youth turnout estimates

It is proving unusually hard to tell how many Americans actually voted this year. The current count of votes is about 120 million, but there are clearly absentee and early ballots that remain to be counted. Estimates of how many still need to be tallied range as high as 13 million, although I personally have no idea. Our problem at CIRCLE is that we use the total vote count to calculate youth turnout. Usually, to be consistent, we use the vote count reported by the Associated Press at 6 am on the morning after the election. Using that number this year would suggest that turnout overall was not especially good. That's possible--conservatives may have sat this one out--but I am hearing reports that there are at least 3 million ballots in California alone that need to be counted.

As a result, we have delayed our usual day-after youth turnout estimate. Instead, we report a range. In essence, the low end of the range (which assumes that almost all votes have been counted) implies a small increase in youth turnout over the relatively high baseline set in 2004. The high end of the range takes youth voting close to a record level.

Regardless, it is clear that young people favored one candidate so strongly that they played a major role in his victory. Under-30s favored Obama over McCain by 66%-32%, an unprecedented tilt. The closest precedent is Ronald Reagan; he took 59% of the youth vote in 1984, and that generation remains conservative today. Another way to make the same point is to note that Obama actually lost the 45-and-older set. He won a decisive victory on the strength of under-30s.

November 5, 2008 3:34 PM | category: none


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