Young voter turnout larger than in past elections

Nationally, young voters hit the polls at record numbers this year, and District 59B, the predominantly student-filled area near the University of Minnesota, saw an increase in turnout from 2004. On Wednesday, Tufts UniversityâÄôs Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement reported their preliminary data on nationally young voter (ages 18-29) turnout, which was significantly higher than in 2004. About 21.6 million to 23.9 million young Americans voted Tuesday, according to CIRCLE, an increase of at least 2.2 million, according to national exit polls, demographic data and projections of total numbers of votes cast. The estimates are based on total vote counts from 120 million to 133 million. There was also a higher percentage of young voters that went to the polls on Tuesday. CIRCLE projected in their report that this yearâÄôs turnout could be the second highest since 1972, and was between 49.3 percent and 54.5 percent, an increase of one to six percentage points over CIRCLEâÄôs estimate based on 2004 exit polls. On campus, District 59BâÄôs turnout increased by over 5 percent, with 20,851 voters going to the polls. Roughly half of the area is made up of student residents, according to 2000 census data. Political science professor Steven Rosenstone said he thinks part of the increase in turnout may be due to President-Elect Barack ObamaâÄôs campaign strategies to get young voters to the polls. Rosenstone said ObamaâÄôs use of text messaging and social networking helped to engage younger voters. âÄúAll the ways of interacting that people over the age of 50 are less likely to use, he built that infrastructure in a way that worked very favorable, that built support and mobilized people to not just vote but be more involved in the political process,âÄù he said. In addition to getting them to the polls, ObamaâÄôs tactics may have also helped him win the election. According to exit polls, voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted overwhelmingly for Obama, with 66 percent of their vote to John McCainâÄôs 33. CIRCLE reports that the gap in voter choice from young voters to the general popular vote âÄî 52 percent for Obama and 46 percent for McCain âÄî was significant and varied greatly from past elections. The average gap from 1976 through 2004 was only 1.8 percentage points, as young voters basically supported the same candidate as older voters in most elections, CIRCLE reported. Rosenstone said while the voter choice gap may not be unprecedented, citing the 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt as another large gap, he did call the gap âÄúone of the biggest weâÄôve seen.âÄù Kathryn Pearson, also a political science professor , said the overwhelming support for Democratic candidates besides Obama was significant as well. In the still-contested Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman for instance, Pearson said young voters were instrumental. âÄúWe wouldnâÄôt be in this toss up if not for young voters,âÄù Pearson said. âÄúFifty percent of 18 to 29 year olds voted for Franken and only 35 percent for Coleman. Coleman won in every other age group by 4 or 5 percent.âÄù Pearson also said young voters may have affected outcomes in Minnesota more than in other states. âÄúYoung voters were 22 percent of the electorate in Minnesota, while nationwide they were only 18,âÄù she said. âÄúYoung people in Minnesota did vote more than national young voters, and I think this is due to same-day registration.âÄù However, almost all demographics increased their national turnout, and the youth voteâÄôs share of the national electorate only increased by one percent from 2004. Rosenstone was still pleased with the numbers. âÄúYoung people are so unlikely to vote in elections compared to middle aged people or older people that if indeed they are voting at comparable numbers, thatâÄôs a big story,âÄù he said. Seniors Micah Kalb and Angela Sowada both voted on Tuesday. Kalb, who voted for Obama, said she felt it was her responsibility to vote when she lives in a democracy. Sowada, who voted for McCain, said if a person doesnâÄôt vote, they canâÄôt complain if things donâÄôt go their way. Both women said they felt good about voting. âÄúThere was such a high turnout, I think we made a difference,âÄù Sowada said.