Youth voter turnout 'strong'

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November 07, 2012|By Leonor Vivanco, @lvivanco | RedEye

So, did young voters rock the vote?

It looks like they did.

“Youth turnout was strong. It was right in keeping with turnout in 2008, which of course was the year of the youth vote,” said Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, which studies youth voting.

In a conference call Wednesday, Levine estimated youth voter turnout was at least 49.3 percent--or more than 22 million voters ages 18 to 29.

But that number is based on 97 percent of precincts that have fully reported their votes as of Wednesday morning, so turnout may grow to 51 percent once the remaining precincts report their votes.

At the same point in time in 2008, CIRCLE estimated youth turnout at 48.3 percent, which rose to 52 percent when more precincts reported votes.

“Yesterday young Americans showed up, voted and made it clear. They are the generation that will take the country forward,” said Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote.

Experts expected a lower turnout because of recent survey results, campaigns didn’t target young people that much and a later start on getting young voters involved compared to four years ago when they were heavily engaged since the primaries.

Voter turnout reflects the percentage of eligible young voters who turned out and cast ballots. Young people represented 19 percent of voters in the election, up one point from 2008, according to exit polls.

President Obama decisively won the youth vote, particularly in the key swing states of Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, according to CIRCLE data based on exit polls.

If young voters stayed home or if Mitt Romney had won half the youth vote, Romney could have won those battleground states, Levine said. Those states represented 80 electoral votes. Switching those states from blue to red would have changed the election’s outcome.

Together, it underscores the influence of this particular voting bloc. This election marks the third presidential election in a row where youth voter turnout was close to 50 percent. It’s enough for Levine and Smith to call it the “new normal.”

“This is really about this generation caring and understanding the power they have and obligation they have,” Smith said.

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