The Youth Vote: Will It Finally Matter?

Lots being made about this year being the year that the youth vote gets out and really matters in a presidential election. And of course the conventional wisdom is that the youth vote will benefit Democrat Barack Obama.

“Today’s THV” is doing a segment on the youth vote tonight at 5 p.m., based on today’s panel discussion at the Clinton School of Public Service, featuring five Clinton School students discuss their perspectives on the 2008 race. You can read more about the THV piece here. It appears to focus on what’s driving the youth vote this year.

I’m wondering to what extent the youth vote will show up this year. A Gallup Poll survey on Friday reported — surprise — little evidence of a surge in the youth vote:

Gallup polling in October finds little evidence of a surge in young voter turnout beyond what it was in 2004. While young voter registration may be up slightly over 2004, the reported level of interest in the election and intention to vote among those under 30 are no higher than they were that year.

What’s more, 18- to 29-year-olds continue to lag behind Americans aged 30 and older on these important turnout indicators.

As a result, 18- to 29-year-olds now constitute 12% of Gallup’s traditional likely voter sample, basically the same as the estimate in the final 2004 pre-election poll (13%). Gallup’s expanded likely voter model, which defines likely voters differently (on the basis of current voting intentions only), estimates a slightly higher proportion of young voters in the electorate (14%). However, even if the share of the youth vote were adjusted upward, doing so has little or no impact on the overall Obama-McCain horse-race numbers using either likely voter model.

The story notes that it’s still possible that “the 18- to 29-year-old share of the likely voter electorate will grow in the final days of the election.” The so-called “ground game” currently taking place in many of the toss-up states (our neighbor to the north, Missouri, among them), might be a big driver in that regard. We simply won’t until the votes are counted.

But there’s some clues here in Arkansas. This, from the Harrison newspaper today:

As of 4 p.m. Saturday, 7,379 people had voted early in Boone County, representing some 34 percent of all registered voters and shattering the record of 5,726 who voted early in 2004. And early voting continues through today.

Of those votes, 1,042, or 14 percent, have been cast by voters in the age range of 18 to 35.

For comparison, in Baxter County where about 8,700 early votes had been recorded Saturday afternoon, only 663, or about 8 percent, were cast by voters in the 18 to 35 age range.

In Pulaski County, some 22 percent of about 67,000 early voters by Saturday afternoon were in that same age group.

Maybe the kids are alright after all.


Students get involved in presidential elections [ASU Herald]


Be sure to watch Jeff Hankins and I Tuesday night, as joins with Today’s THV for live coverage of the presidential race.

(A version of this post also appears on The Ladder and


2 Responses

  1. […] Lance Turner of Arkansas Business ponders the question, “Will the youth vote matter?” Oh, great, this again. We’re always having to talk about “the youth vote,” and it […]

  2. […] DAMN YOUTH VOTE:  I missed the forum at the Clinton School, but Lance Turner and David Kinkade weigh in on the […]

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