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Young Voters, Engaged and Online

Page history last edited by Kelly Behrend 12 years, 7 months ago


Young Voters, Engaged and Online

By Jose Antonio Vargas

Whoever wins the White House come November, this much is true: Web-savvy young voters will have been a crucial voting bloc.

The 2008 primary campaign, and especially the protracted and historic Democratic battle, buried the tired old adage that young people don't vote. Turnout among voters under 30 has increased since the 2004 election, and young voters now, by large margins, lean Democratic (as books such as "Youth to Power" convincingly argue). Two recent studies by non-partisan organizations -- by CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), released Friday, and by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, released today -- outline the growing trend.
Some 6.5 million voters under 30 voted in this year's primaries and caucuses, according to data compiled by CIRCLE. That's a record figure, said CIRCLE director Peter Levine, and the first time the youth vote has risen in three consecutive election cycles (2004, 2006 and 2008) since the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971. CIRCLE's data shows that the overall national youth voter turnout rate almost doubled in eight years; it was 9 percent in 2000 and grew to 17 percent this year. In addition, of the 17 states in which primary exit polls were conducted in both 2000 and 2008, 16 saw increases in youth voter turnout, with some states showing a triple or quadruple jump. In the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire, for example, the youth vote comprised 18 and 16 percent, respectively, of the total share of voters.
"This primary season the Millennials have gone to the polls in record numbers, showing they are an influential voting bloc in American politics," said Levine. "They realize what's at stake and the impact this election will have on their future and thefuture of our country."
"All key indicators and trends point to a predicted record turnout of young people voting this coming November," he continued.
The latest national survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project of Web behavior show that more and more young voters flock online to inform and engage themselves about the campaign.
While the Pew survey found that 46 percent of all Americans have used the Internet, e-mail or cell phone text messaging to get news about the race, share their opinions and help mobilize others, young voters were among the most active and intense online users. They watch and make online videos and use social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace to read news and get involved. Pew found that two-thirds of online users under 30 have a social networking profile.
CIRCLE and PEW's studies also found that Sen. Barack Obama had the edge with these net-savvy young voters. Obama was "the clear choice" among young Democrats, winning 60 percent of young voters and a majority in 32 primary and caucus states, CIRCLE said. Pew found that among all demographic groups using the Internet, young voters are "helping to define the online political debate," with Obama supporters outpacing those who backed both Sen. John McCain and Sen. Hillary Clinton in their use of online videos, social networking sites and online campaign activities.
More than a year ago, when the Facebook group "Students for Barack Obama" was created by Bowdoin College student Meredith Segal, political pundits and online observers wondered what impact such online groups would have in the primary race.
It's no longer an open question.
This is the seventh in a series of online columns on our growing "clickocracy," in which we are one nation under Google, with e-mail and video for all. Please send suggestions, comments and tips to vargasj-at-washpost-dot-com. 

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