OK, so the vote didn’t rock. A smaller proportion of young people voted in the dismal midterm election yesterday than voted in the euphorious election of 2008. Doesn’t 2008 seem SO long ago?
Here’s one bit of data, from the Rock the Vote web site —
The shortfall in young voter turnout from 23.5% in 2006 to 20.4% in 2010, according to Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement’s (CIRCLE) analysis of exit poll data, is a result of what happens when candidates and campaigns fail to reach and engage young people and ask them for their votes.
There can be no doubt the enthusiasm young people showed in 2006 and 2008 provided a foundation on which to increase turnout compared to the last midterm election. The playbook was written — register young voters, engage them in meaningful dialogue on the issues that affect them – and they will vote. Ignore them and they will not. This election proved that it takes more than President Obama, whose name wasn’t even on the ballot, to turn these young Americans out.
I do take some solace, though, in at least one factoid to emerge from all the hand-wringing about our apathetic youth. Those young people who did turn out to vote were significantly more left-leaning than their elders. The only age cohort that voted mostly Democratic were people under 30 (56% Dems versus 40% GOP), and the younger you were, the more likely you were to vote Democrat; for voters under 24, Democrats outranked Republicans by 19%. I’ve decided to look at this as the half-full glass of today’s day-after-elections, which is otherwise a gloomy Wednesday indeed.