25 Facts About the Youth Vote This Year

Back in 2008, the sheer force of youth voters finally pushed itself to the forefront of public consciousness when it became a crucial component of President Barack Obama’s eventual victory. Whether or not they stand poised to repeat their performance this year remains to be seen, of course, but they still remain attuned to the nation’s needs. Read on as we examine 25 facts about the impact of the youth vote in this year’s election.

  1. Young voters favor Barack Obama:But not as ardently as they did in 2008. Only half the youth voters polled by the Garfield Institute for Public Leadership threw their support to the Democratic incumbent, down from 68% for the previous election. Thirty-seven percent plan to vote for Mitt Romney, compared to only 29% for John McCain, 2008’s RNC nominee.
  2. They’re expected to turn out at the lowest rate of any demographic this year:And the numbers keep declining. Gallup noted that, in 2004, 81% of 18- to 29-year-olds reported they’d show up to vote come election day. Four years later, the number dropped to 78%. By 2012, only 51% of that demographic said they’d bother showing up to the polls. That’s less than any other age group out there.
  3. The economy is the highest priority for all youth voters, no matter their partisan leanings:Of all the issues being explored this year, the youngest voting bloc universally sites job creation and improving the overall economic climate as its top priority. Like pretty much every demographic, really. A total of 34.1% consider the economy the most important issue, further breaking down into 36.8% of Obama supporters, 32.8% of undecideds, 31.7% of Romney supporters, and 33.7% of those planning to vote for a third party.
  4. Most 18- to 29-year olds have had to put their lives on hold because of the economy:A staggering 89% of youth voters surveyed by WomanTrend, Inc. and the right-wing Generation Opportunity stated that the slumping economy left an irreversible impression on their current and future plans. Scaling back on entertainment (51%) and delaying buying a home (38%) stand as the most common strategies for addressing the overarching issue.
  5. MTV’s Fantasy Election 2012 is a thing that exists:In an effort to encourage the young‘uns its programming courts to vote, MTV launched the Fantasy Election 2012 game. Similar to fantasy football and the like, it allows players to track the motions of national and state politicians and analyze their chances at success. Its central goal involves getting the youngest voting demographic more engaged with the whys behind registering and casting versus merely hacking through the motions like an automaton.
  6. And Microsoft is following suit:Through Xbox Live, politically-engaged youth (and maybe a few kid-at-heart oldsters) will be able to participate in debates and polls urging them to get informed about civic matters. Forty percent of users eligible to vote describe themselves as conflicted over which presidential candidate they should choose.
  7. Young Republicans are more liberal on social issues than most people assume:To the point the party has to downplay its stance on gay marriage and abortion when courting the 18-to-29-year-old voters. Because so many actively support marriage equality (37%) and a woman’s right to choose, the RNC focuses more on economics instead. Considering the lack of jobs stands as one of the highest concerns amongst the youngest voting bloc, that strategy has proven more viable.
  8. Youth voters seem to like Paul Ryan more than Mitt Romney:Curiously, even Obama supporters prefer the Wisconsin Senator to his running mate! Romney’s popularity among the 18-to-29 demographic increased when he announced Ryan as his vice presidential candidate, and this likely has quite a bit to do with his outline for the economy.
  9. Disinterest runs high among youth voters:Only 58% of today’s youth voters care about the ultimate outcome of this year’s election cycle, contrasted with 62% back in 2008. Most still endorse Obama, however, though they remain wary from the persisting economic downtown.
  10. American youth are more politically engaged than stereotypes dictate:At least 44% have engaged in some level of participatory politics during the past year, with an additional 44% taking part in other forms. Participatory politics is more popular among white kids (43%), followed by black (41%), Latino/a (38%), and Asian-American (36%).
  11. The partisan gap between age groups is the widest it’s ever been:Previous elections saw very little significant switches between 18-to-29-year-old voters and their 65-and-older counterparts, but 2008 saw Obama attract the youngest demographic in droves. And the gap continues to widen, with more youngsters straying away from their parents’ political sensibilities. Whether or not they ultimately end up showing up at the polls remains to be seen, however.
  12. An additional 16.8 million youth will be eligible to vote in 2012:With a total of 46 million 18-to-29-year-olds eligible, and college students are slightly more likely to register and show up on voting day (87%) than their peers outside of school (84%).
  13. Exposing students to civic education increases the chance of voting:Makes sense. However, so many schools lack sufficient social studies and government programming meant to inspire action, meaning the most politically engaged students come from white, middle class backgrounds.
  14. Twenty-four percent of the eligible voting population is made up of youth:As of 2011, anyways. That was only a year ago, but no deadly plagues targeting everyone between the ages of 18 and 29 have swept through recently. So the total likely hasn’t changed significantly since then.
  15. Youth voters don’t quite know their states’ identification laws:When it comes to voter ID and registration laws, the youth of America hurt for knowledge. Depending on the state, anywhere from one half to three-fourths of young voters just couldn’t say what they needed to do. But these numbers sadly remain consistent across most demographics.
  16. College students tend to skew liberal over non-college students:On issues regarding immigration, healthcare, taxes (specifically, The Buffett Rule) and same-sex marriage, individuals with at least some college education tended to lean liberal in their views, as opposed to those without. Non-college youth voters were also more likely to report uncertainty regarding their stances, however 44.2% identify as politically moderate.
  17. College students are less likely to trust the government:More than half (51.7%) of college-educated voters believe the government honestly doesn’t care much about them, as compared to 36.7% of those from a high school or lower background. When it comes to seeing America as run with the sole interests of major corporations and the wealthiest tax brackets, 72.4% of college students versus 6.14% of not-college-students perceive the plutocracy.
  18. In some states, student IDs cannot be used to identify voters:Sorry, youth voters in Texas, Florida, Kansas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania who don’t possess passports or driver’s licenses! Student IDs are not accepted as a valid means of identifying yourself at the polls — or even registering to vote in the first place! These restrictions send politicos speculating about the impact they might hold over the 2012 election results, particularly when it comes to Obama’s chances.
  19. Eighteen-to-29-year-olds are more likely to approve of Obama’s performance:At the time of this writing, 58% of 18-to-29-year-olds think he’s doing a fine job, the highest of any other age group. Across all demographics, 45% of Americans polled by Gallup approve of Obama right now.
  20. Most youth just aren’t looking forward to the 2012 elections:No matter their partisan leanings (if any), young voters and would-be voters just aren’t looking forward to November. Only 45%, as opposed to 63% in 2008, reported feeling excited about watching the results roll in on election night.
  21. Most young voters believe the middle class is shrinking:Seventy-six percent adhere to this mindset, actually, and specify the lack of job opportunities as the culprit, in keeping with the theme of economic concerns.
  22. The League of Young Voters launched in 2003:Its primary focus lay on reaching out to low-income, minority, and non-college youth through civic engagement both outside and inside election years. For 2012, the organization’s strategy involves promoting the issues most relevant to community-building, encouraging young voters to not only register and cast their ballots, but actively participate in the political process.
  23. Six percent plan to vote third party:A further 30.3% consider themselves undecided. When it comes to Obama’s performance, undecided youth voters are pretty split in their opinions, with 41% favoring him and 47.8% considering him something of a disappointment. Back in 2008, the Democratic incumbent eventually pulled in 61.8% of the undecided young bloc.
  24. Obama attracts a more racially diverse selection of supporters:Of the youth voters planning to support Obama in 2012, 46.3% identify as white, 27.4% as black, and 18.4% Latino/a. By contrast, 81.5% of Romney’s supporters identify as white, with an additional 10.9% Latino/a support. Among the undecided, 63% are white, 9% are black, and 18% are Latino/a, while third party candidates combined will probably see demographics of around 77% white and 15% Latino/a.
  25. AmeriCorps participation has little impact on voting:Critics of the AmeriCorps program believe it to hold too much of a partisan influence over its participants, but in reality holds a minimal amount of sway. In fact, they were actually less likely to show up and vote than their peers outside the program.