A letter in response to yesterday’s post, which cited GOP consultant Tom Edmonds arguing that youth turnout for the presidential election would be smaller than expected.
Your 10/20 post entitled “Is it Over?,” mentioned that Edmonds thinks
the youth won’t show up. In your article Edmonds says, “The largest
youth turnout in the primaries was in Utah, where 16 percent of
eligible young voters turned out—and they weren’t voting for Obama,
they were voting for Mitt Romney.” The consultant appears to be
conflating youth turnout with share. See Table 1 of this fact sheet
for a state-by-state list of youth turnout and share.
In fact, Ohio and Wisconsin, not Utah, tied for the highest youth
turnout (under 30s) in the primary/caucus season–25 percent. The
share of young voters in Utah’s primary was 16 percent, but share and
turnout are very different types of statistics. The denominator is
important here. To calculate the share of a demographic, the
denominator is the total number of votes cast, while the eligible
population is the denominator used to calculate turnout. Thus, the
share is affected by how other demographics vote, while the turnout is
specific to the demographic in question.
Also, over 5 million young people voted in the Democratic primaries
compared to only 1.7 million in Republican primaries. Obama won 60
percent of youth votes in the Democratic primary. McCain won only 34
percent of the youth vote in Republican primaries, and he was on the
ballot in every single race.
Whether or not the youth vote will show up is unpredictable, but high
registration numbers and websites that make the electoral process
easier (i.e. govoteabsentee.org) are some promising signs.
Research Associate, CIRCLE