South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

Turnout in the Democratic Primary in South Carolina almost tripled yesterday.  According to CIRCLE, 74,245 young voters went to the polls, 19 percent of eligible young voters.  In 2004, only 26,181 voters aged 18 to 29 participated.  As a share of the electorate, young voters made up 14 percent of the electorate, an increase of 5 percent over the previous cycle.  

It's no surprise that once again young people voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers.  According to CNN exit polling, young voters chose Obama 68 - 23 percent.  These numbers were fairly consistent through all age demographics in the state, the notable exception being those 65+, who cast their ballots for Clinton.  

Apropos of my last post, it looks like race was not a factor among younger voters, or rather, the vote did not break down along racial lines.  What little polling I could find before the primary seemed to indicate that the debate over race in the media had little effect on Clinton and Obama's support among young black and white voters.  Turns out that debate likely drove many young voters - white and black - towards Obama and his post-racial message.

Among African American voters aged 18 - 24, Obama won 79 to 19 percent. Among 25 - 29 year olds that number was even higher at 83 to 16 percent.  But Obama also won among young white voters, who voted for him 52 to 28 percent.  Among that group it seems like some of Obama's victory may be due to the fact that John Edwards did surprisingly well among young white voters, capturing 20 percent of their vote, his highest numbers yet.  

Once again, the number of young people voting in the Democratic contest far outpaced that of Republicans.  Only 44,320 young voters participated in the Republican primary held last week, and they made up only 10 percent of the Republican electorate.  

As youth turnout has continued to rise in each contest, the pundits are sitting up and taking notice, and something of a new conventional wisdom seems to be forming.  As I type this, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd just gave young voters props on Meet the Press, and here's Tim Russert last night:

If you are going to be a successful candidate in November as a Democratic candidate you cannot win with just hard core white Democratic voters. You need young voters to come into the Democratic fold to transform states like Florida...or Ohio. You need to broaden the base of the Democratic Party.

I would argue that this was true even in 2004 and 2006.  In both of those elections, young voters were strong supporters for Democrats, and in both of those elections young voter turnout increased.  Nevertheless, it is good to see young voters participating and getting their due.  

Next up is Super Tuesday, when young voters in 22 states will have the opportunity - for the first time in a long time - in helping to decide the Democratic nominee.  We're going to get a much better picture as to the potential impact of young voters in the General Election after February 5th.

Tags: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Primary, South Carolina, youth vote (all tags)

Comments

17 Comments

Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

But as a total of the electorate, at 14% for those aged 18-29, that's not all that impressive, right?

by Jerome Armstrong 2008-01-27 07:16AM | 0 recs
impressive depends on

what you're willing to be impressed by.

You've already tipped your hand about that.

by Teaser 2008-01-27 07:22AM | 0 recs
Re: impressive depends on

That's your substance?

by Jerome Armstrong 2008-01-27 07:40AM | 0 recs
Re: impressive depends on

The youth who do not vote, the poor who do not vote,  and the elderly who do not vote are all likely Democratic voters. That is why the youth vote is important as one component of the nonvoters.

Any increase in voting numbers helps the Democrats. The Republicans actually would like it if everyone remained home.

by shergald 2008-01-27 11:11AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

It's definitely lower that I would have hoped.  Young voters are 20% of the eligible electorate, so they underperformed by 6%.

It's also hard to put into perspective, because I don't have comparable figures for the other age demographics.  It's possible that one or some of the 30 - 44, 45 - 64, or 65+ demographics underperformed.  And it's highly likely that some of them overperformed.

There are also some mitigating factors that I think we're going to see play out on Super Tuesday as well.  Studies show that young people vote in greater numbers when campaigns ask them.  The "asking" is most effective when it takes the form of  peer to peer outreach, but media attention, meeting the candidates, etc. also play a role.  Young people in Nevada and South Carolina had far less attention from the campaigns than did young voters in Iowa and New Hampshire where we saw the biggest gains.  So that accounts for some of the drop off, but probably not all of it.

The other factor is that South Carolina did not have election day registration.  There were reports of thousands of young people signing up at the caucus and voting booth in Iowa and New Hampshire.  South Carolina did not have election day registration, and all voters needed to be on the rolls by December 26th.  So that might be a little more of the drop.

Young voters also get turned off very easily by negative campaigning, which we saw in spades over the last two weeks.

So I think some combination of those three things account for the drop off.

Super Tuesday has a mix of EDR and non-EDR states.  And it will have states that receive more or less attention from the candidates. It will be very interesting to do compare/contrasts on February 6th.

I think the real story though is the climbing turnout in general.  Participation in primaries is always lower and I think the gains we're seeing now will be magnified (to the Democrats' favor) during the general election.

by Mike Connery 2008-01-27 07:48AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

Studies show that young people vote in greater numbers when campaigns ask them.

That's the crux of it, and only Obama seems to have a concerted effort in that regard.

I also think there's huge problems in the persuasive media model that is being missed by solely the targeting of TV.

Is the 20% of the electorate among those age 18-29 just in SC, or is that the nationwide number?  Also, has that changed at all from '04 to '08 as a percentage of the electorate?

by Jerome Armstrong 2008-01-27 09:03AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

20% is just for South Carolina.  I imagine that it is increasing across the board since 2004.  The Millennials will eventually be bigger than the Baby Boom (once they are all of age), and Gen X was one of the smallest cohorts in  decades.  

So while I don't have figures, I'm guessing that in almost every state the number of young voters as a potential share of the electorate has increased since the last cycle.

That would be a good stat to have.  I will ask the folks at CIRCLE to calculate it.

As for youth operations, I think you are right.  Both Hillary and Edwards have had full-time youth directors for months now, if not a year, Edwards never had a critical mass of youth support to do anything with it, and Hillary always de-emphasised it until after Iowa.

Hillary has done a lot of high-profile youth stuff since that loss, but to me her outreach tends to ring hollow, and I have no idea if their field program is really trying to target youth or just paying it lip service in the media to attempt to cut into Obama's base a little bit.

by Mike Connery 2008-01-27 10:52AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

Obama has clearly shown he can turn out the youth vote when he has a strong ground game.

I was actually surprised how much effort and resources the Obama camp put into SC but it clearly did pay off for him, although it is unfortunate, for Obama, that there is so much race related narrative surrounding his victory.

by kristoph 2008-01-27 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

If negitive campaigning turns off young voters then we can expect as lot more negitivity from the Clintons between now and Feb. 5th.

by herbal tee 2008-01-27 08:01AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

Stop and figure out just how much of Obama's "overwhelming" margin of victory was attributable to "white voters under 25". 1/2 of 1%. If that much.

Stop and figure out IF THE BLACK VOTE SPLIT 3 WAYS in this race. Your guy would have finished LAST.

by robert ethan 2008-01-27 08:46AM | 0 recs
with the youth vote straight ticket?

Or will they vote for Obama because he's not like those other Democrats, and either split their down-ticket votes or leave the down-ticket part of the ballot blank?

That is my question. If Obama can pull in millions of young people and get them to identify as Democrats, good for him.

by desmoinesdem 2008-01-27 10:18AM | 0 recs
Re: with the youth vote straight ticket?

Down ticket is an interesting question, and hard to say.

My gut says that in most states they will go with Democrats.  On all the issues, young voters are far more in line with the Democrats than the GOP, and their votes - even in Congressional, Gubernatorial and Senate races - is trending Democrat.

by Mike Connery 2008-01-27 10:59AM | 0 recs
Good question

It's hard to tell. But studies have shown once someone votes Democratic 3 times they will continue to for the rest of their life's.

Youth are generally liberal though so I can't imagine they would vote Obama and a Republican. Maybe for some low profile races they would not vote. But if other candidates down ballot do youth GOTV too I think it's fair to say that they'd vote for every canidate with a D by their name.

by Populista 2008-01-27 03:22PM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

"Turnout in the Democratic Primary in South Carolina almost tripled yesterday.  According to CIRCLE, 74,245 young voters went to the polls, 19 percent of eligible young voters.  In 2004, only 26,181 voters aged 18 to 29 participated.  As a share of the electorate, young voters made up 14 percent of the electorate, an increase of 5 percent over the previous cycle."

I was hoping to see a greater participation by young voters.  In 2004 it was pretty much a given that the state would go Republican, so there was not much incentive to GOTV.  19% is not a very high number.  

by wasabi 2008-01-27 10:25AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

It's still a primary.  Check out the reply I made to Jerome's comment.

I expect turnout will top 50% in the general.  If it looks like the state could turn blue and the campaigns or the state party put a lot of effort into courting youth, it could be higher.

In 2004, turnout averaged 49% nationally, but in targeted battleground states youth turnout reached as high as 64%.

by Mike Connery 2008-01-27 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

Also, overall turnout yesterday was on 31%.

by Mike Connery 2008-01-27 11:03AM | 0 recs
Re: South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.

With all due respect for Mr. Obama and the campaign he has run I'd have to agree he has alot of good things to say, who can argue with that? but the major difference is, Obama has nothing really but his words so far, what has he actually accomplished? nothing much in his 2 very short years in the Senate. He skipped on 130 Senate votes, no one does that and gets things done, seriously. Change happens when you TAKE ACTION and sitting back and not voting 130 times, is not taking action. You know I have nothing against
Obama's ideas, but Hillary and Edwards both have alot more to back up their promises. One step at a time, I think Obama is an impulsive choice and the
wrong choice for what America needs right now. Change is great! of course it is, we ALL want change and no one wants it and can make that change happen more effectively for what we all need to restore America right away quite like Hillary Clinton starting on her first day in office. Hillary has my vote and support all the way and John Edwards is my second choice, I
wish Edwards would be Hillary's running mate in fact,  those two would be just awesome together. I would consider Obama another time but he is way
too young, untested and inexperienced still for what we need done now. Do the right thing and vote for what we KNOW will work at a time in America's
history when we cannot afford to lose another another child, another job, another business, another family, another home, another day.  Hillary already knows exactly what to do and how to do it, you cannot just promise that or say 'yes you can' make change, it takes hard work. You have to actually have the skills and know how to get it done like Hillary absolutely does. Bottom line, you don't hire an amateur to do a professional job. Vote for Hillary for real serious, immediate change, she is the sure thing and she will not let us down.

Hillary All the Way!!!!!!

by HillaryNow 2008-01-27 06:04PM | 0 recs

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