When the polls opened on Tuesday morning, young voters turned out in greater numbers than ever, making their voices heard and playing a major part in this year's surging overall turnout.
According to exit-poll information provided by CIRCLE research, 21 million voters under the age of 30 went to the polls, well over the goal of "20 Million Loud" that MTV's Choose or Lose campaign set for its voter drive (see "Choosing, Not Losing: What Young Voters Are Saying From The Polls"). The number is up sharply from the 16 million young voters who came out for the 2000 presidential election. CBS News estimates that the youth voter turnout was up 22 percent from the 2000 election, well above the 14 percent overall increase among all voters. In all, more than half of all people between the ages of 18 and 29 (52 percent, to be exact) exercised their right to vote on Tuesday, up from 42 percent in 2000.
Young voters also picked their battles, making their strongest showings in battleground states. Close to 48 percent of voters under 30 in non-battleground states hit the polls, while close to 65 percent of all young voters in battleground states made their choice known.
Choosing, Not Losing: What Young Voters Are Saying From The Polls
Once at the polls, young voters got behind Democratic challenger John Kerry in a big way. Kerry carried 54 percent of all under-30 voters, while President Bush attracted 44 percent. The numbers helped keep Kerry close in a race that saw him draw 48 percent of the total popular vote to Bush's 51 percent.
The youth surge came as voting rose across the board, but the increased interest among young voters helped the under-30 set claim a larger portion of the overall voting picture this year. More than 18 percent of all voters were under the age of 30, compared with over 16 percent in 2000. Those numbers have to give heart to those who wanted to make their voices heard and make sure that politicians paid attention to youth issues.