Sunday, November 07, 2004

That youth vote 

At least some of the old lefties (with the emphasis on old) are turning on the youngsters. Says the ever graceful Hunter S Thompson: "[The election was] another failure of the youth vote. Yeah, we rocked the vote all right. Those little bastards betrayed us again."

But have they?

The caveat: since I'm not a statistician and I only had a cursory look at the figures, I welcome all my smart readers to correct me.

The youth vote (18-29 years of age) was up this election. The important thing was not just absolute increase in turnout, because all the other age groups also turned up in greater numbers than in 2000. What's important is that the numbers of young voters increased relatively to other age groups - in some states. There, Bush also experienced strong swings against him among the young voters.

Nationwide, in 2000, the 18 to 29 year olds accounted for 17% of those who voted, and they gave 46% of their vote to Bush. In 2004, they maintained the 17% proportion, and their vote for Bush was 45%.

But the situation is different when you look at individual states. Take for example Pennsylvania, a state considered in play by both candidates. In 2000, only 14% of those voting were between 18 and 29 years of age. In 2004, the proportion of young voters rose to 21%. Bush received only 39% of their vote, down by 7% from 2000.

Let's look at another battleground state - Ohio. The 2000 turnout - 18% of the total; 2004 turnout - 21% of the total. The 2004 Bush vote - 42%, down by 7%. Or Wisconsin - 19% in 2000, 20% in 2004, Bush gets 41% of the vote, down by 3%.

(apologies for a bit of an apples and oranges comparison, as CNN's 2000 exit polls for most of the states is no longer available, and I had problems accessing MSNBC's 2004 exit polls.)

Maybe all the "Rock to Vote" and "Vote for Change" and "Vote or Die" initiatives were not as unsuccessful as people think - they just clearly weren't effective enough to change the result.

This is not necessarily bad news or good news for Bush. Voting trends change from election to election, depending on a whole range of different factors, including the issues at play the given election. But this is clearly something that the Republican strategists have to be aware of and work on the problem for the next four years.


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