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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Youth Vote, 2008 and 2010

In the 2008 exit poll, first-time voters supported Barack Obama 69-30 percent. People who had voted before were about evenly divided, 50-48 percent. But people who cast their first vote in a presidential election are not necessarily going to show up in the next midterm. Democrats hoping for a 2010 Obama bounce were relying on unreliable voters.

President and Mrs. Obama’s appearance at Ohio State yesterday carries with it another troubling sign for their party’s prospects this year. Relying on young voters in a midterm election is like looking for a cab at 5 p.m. in the rain. You’re almost certainly going to get wet.

A poll from Harvard's Institute of Politics:In most election cycles, it is expected that interest in voting will increase as the election draws near -- in the 2010 midterm elections, interest in voting among Millennials (18-29 year olds) has been decreasing over the course of our last three surveys. Overall, 27 percent of eligible voters under the age of 30 report that they will “definitely be voting” in the upcoming midterm elections -- a nine percentage point decrease in 11 months. It should also be noted that 16 percent say that they will “probably be voting,” 21 percent say that their chances are “50-50,” 18 percent say that they “probably won’t be voting” and another 18 percent say that they “definitely won’t be voting.”

Political scientists argue about why U.S. voter turnout has been rising. An important part of the story seems to be that today’s under 30s — the so-called Millennial generation — are more politically interested than their predecessors, Generation X.

Millennials take a very different view of politics from older cohorts of Americans. For example, offered a choice between a government that offers higher taxes and more services, or fewer services and lower taxes, older Americans choose the lower-tax alternative.

Sixty-two percent of over 65s prefer the lower tax alternative, as do 58% of voters in the 50-64 group, and 56% of voters aged 30-49.

Under 30s prefer bigger government by a margin of 53-43.

Under 30s are more socially liberal too, and less nationalistic than over 30s.

All these numbers suggest two conclusions:

-Be very careful about projecting forward from the 2010 congressional results to the 2012 presidential vote. These elections almost occur in two different countries.

-Be very careful about assuming that Republican success in 2010 signifies that Republicans have overcome the longer-term problems that I’ve been writing about these past five years. If Republicans cannot connect better to the huge new Millennial generation, next month’s success will only be a happy interval before 2012’s grim challenges.