2010-10-27 | Young U.S. Voters Ready for Election Day
Young U.S. Voters Ready for Election Day
27 October 2010
By MacKenzie C. Babb
Washington - Young American voters registered in numbers higher than expected to cast their ballots in the November midterm elections, continuing a trend of increased political participation by young U.S. citizens.
Rock the Vote, a U.S. organization seeking to engage young Americans in politics, registered nearly 300,000 youth to vote in the November elections, exceeding its registration goal by 50 percent. Spokeswoman Maegan Carberry said although this number may seem small compared to the more than 2 million voters the group registered ahead of the 2008 presidential race, a drop-off in voter engagement is normal in midterm election years.
Carberry said voter participation in midterm races usually drops by about 15 percent from the preceding presidential race. She added that the dip occurs across all age groups and does not signify declining enthusiasm by young voters.
"While the conventional wisdom may have been in the past that young people don't vote, that's been largely discredited. And the 2008 election, for example, showed that you don't have to change someone's lifelong patterns, like convincing an old Democrat to suddenly vote Republican, or vice versa, to win. You can actually expand the electorate," she said.
According to Rock the Vote, more than 22 million young voters cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election, marking the third consecutive election in which young voter turnout increased. Carberry said she expects the momentum to continue.
"The next few election cycles, starting with this one, are about expanding the electorate to accommodate the generation's changing demographics because this generation is huge and they're coming."
Rock the Vote says one in five Americans is between the ages of 18 and 29. These voters, part of the so-called Millennial generation, will represent nearly one-quarter of the voting-age population by 2012, and more than one-third by 2020. And according to the Pew Research Center in Washington, Millennials are the most diverse generation in history - 38 percent come from ethnic and racial minorities.
YOUNG VOTERS FOCUSED ON CANDIDATES, NOT PARTIES
In recent years, young people have voted more often for Democratic candidates than for Republicans. Most notably, young people voted 2-to-1 for President Obama in the 2008 election. However, Carberry said, young people are becoming less concerned with political party identification and more interested in candidates' platforms.
"Young people told us in a poll we conducted in September that they don't really relate to either political party; they really relate to individual candidates who address the issues they care about," Carberry said.
She said the poll showed the top concerns for young voters are the state of the economy, the national debt and keeping college affordable. She said one in five young people is jobless, an unemployment rate twice the national average for other age groups.
Carberry said other key issues include marriage rights, immigration reform and energy independence.
Carberry suggested that, in preparing to reach this expanding electorate in coming elections, politicians draw lessons from President Obama's successful campaign to win the youth vote in 2008: Address young voters directly through social media and networking outlets, and in person with visits to college campuses and associations of young professionals.