Youth eligible to vote are estimated to be around 21 percent of the population and around 19 of those 21 percent voted this year, which is an extraordinarily high turnout given the difficulties associated with voter registration and voting absentee.
The statistic is especially surprising given that most major media outlets and pollsters, including The Associated Press, the Huffington Post and Pew Research, reported a significant expected drop in youth enthusiasm and participation for 2012.
In fact, Generation Opportunity, a polling company that gears its efforts toward young people, was the only organization that actually predicted an increase in voter participation for 2012.
“It has been completely underestimated so far,” Conway told RedAlertPolitics in a phone interview one month before the election. “Enthusiasm is absolutely not down, it is as high as 2008.”
Among the young people who voted, Obama experienced a 6 percent drop in support compared with 2008 levels. In 2008, 66 percent of young people voted for Obama and only 31 percent voted for Republican candidate John McCain. This year, Obama received 60 percent of the youth vote in contrast to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s 37 percent, according to The New York Times Exit Polls.
Nevertheless, 60 percent is 60 percent and Obama carried the election on the backs of American youth.
Young people represented at least 80 electoral votes in the 2012 elections, according to analysis done by The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).
If young people had stayed home on Tuesday, Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Pennsylvania would have swung solidly red, CIRCLE said in a press release.
In all four states, Obama carried the two age brackets 18-29 and 30-44 by a large margin while Romney carried the older age brackets 45-64 and 65+.
This is yet another confirmation that if a candidate is able to carry the youth, he is liable to carry the election, as Obama has shown for the second time.
But, the 6 percent drop in Obama support also shows that young people are willing and able to fluctuate in their ideas about particular issues, parties and candidates, depending on the political and economic circumstances.
This ability offers a huge potential for future candidates to have the chance to tap into the the things that matter most for young people, regardless of party affiliation.