South Carolina: Youth Turnout Triples. Again.
by Mike Connery, Sun Jan 27, 2008 at 07:01:27 AM EST
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.