If politicians are to listen to the concerns of young people, more young people need to make their voice heard. The ballot box is one way this can happen.
To that end, I bear good tidings.
New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that, for the second major election in a row, young voter turnout rose in 2006. An analysis of the data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at the University of Maryland confirms early estimates of increased young voter turnout and finds that 10.8 million 18-29 year olds voted in 2006, a nearly two million vote increase from 2002 levels (8.9 million). This is following young voters' large turnout increase in 2004, when 18-29 year olds cast 4.3 million more ballots than in 2000 and increased their turnout rate by nine percentage points, more than twice the overall electorate's 4-point increase. CIRCLE's analysis also shows that while turnout was up among voters of all ages in 2006 (by 1.7 percentage points), 18-29 year olds yet again increased their turnout by more, jumping by 3 percentage points from 2002 to 2006 - nearly twice the increase of the overall electorate.So more of them are voting... but for whom are they voting? I bear more good tidings:
"The official figures confirm that a new generation has arrived at the polls and is an electorate to watch in 2008," said Kat Barr, Research Director at Young Voter Strategies. "On Election Day 2006, 10.8 million 18-29 year olds voted, two million more than in the previous midterm election. The increased civic engagement and political interest of the Millennial Generation, outreach from campus and community organizations, and attention from campaigns and candidates in 2006 all came together to build on the momentum begun by big young voter turnout in 2004. Young adults are an electorate that campaigns and candidates must reach out to in order to win on Election Day 2008 and beyond.
Young Americans are more likely than the general public to favor a government-run universal health care insurance system, an open-door policy on immigration and the legalization of gay marriage, according to a New York Times/CBS News/MTV poll. The poll also found that they are more likely to say the war in Iraq is heading to a successful conclusion.
The poll offers a snapshot of a group whose energy and idealism have always been as alluring to politicians as its scattered focus and shifting interests have been frustrating. It found that substantially more Americans ages 17 to 29 than four years ago are paying attention to the presidential race. But they appeared to be really familiar with only two of the candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton, both Democrats.
They have continued a long-term drift away from the Republican Party. And although they are just as worried as the general population about the outlook for the country and think their generation is likely to be worse off than that of their parents, they retain a belief that their votes can make a difference, the poll found.
More than half of Americans ages 17 to 29 — 54 percent — say they intend to vote for a Democrat for president in 2008. They share with the public at large a negative view of President Bush, who has a 28 percent approval rating with this group, and of the Republican Party. They hold a markedly more positive view of Democrats than they do of Republicans.
This is certainly good news. More thoughts on youth activism in a later post.