The stakes are high for 2008's presidential election, and the outcome of November's vote could very well shape America's future for decades to come — something that hasn't been lost on the nation's youth, who proved the naysayers wrong on Super Tuesday, bucking the last decade's voting trends by enthusiastically flooding the polls to have their voices heard.
"The entire world watched as one of the most electrifying moments in U.S. election history unfolded on Tuesday," proclaimed Heather Smith, the executive director of Rock the Vote. "Young people are tired of being characterized as apathetic and uninterested in politics."
According to the results of CNN's exit polls and tabulations from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, young voters turned out in record numbers in more than 20 states. In practically every state holding a primary or caucus Tuesday, youth turnout increased astronomically, doubling, tripling and even quadrupling the turnout in the 2000 and 2004 electoral seasons.
"Young Americans have been turning out to vote at remarkable rates in these primaries," CIRCLE Director Peter Levine said. "This reflects their deep concern about the critical issues at stake and the impact of this election on our country's future. Since 2000, young people have been volunteering at high rates and are becoming more interested in news and public affairs. Now, they are ready to consider voting as a way of addressing major problems."
CBS News reports that Illinois Senator Barack Obama owes much of his victories Tuesday to America's young voters. Nationwide, Obama netted 59 percent of voters under 30 years old, while New York Senator Hillary Clinton was supported by 38 percent. Young men supported Obama by a margin of 64 to 33 percent over Clinton, and young women supported Obama by 53 to 45 percent.
While state-by-state voting demographics are still being sorted out, young voters in Tennessee quadrupled their turnout from 35,000 in 2000's primary to nearly 140,000 in Tuesday's primary. In Nashville, one of MTV News' Street Team '08 citizen journalists, Dustin Ogdin, visited the campus of Tennessee State University, where he met Gloria, a student who said she was planning to vote in a few hours but still couldn't decide between Clinton — the eventual Democratic victor in that state — and Obama. "It is a big issue with black women, whether we want to [vote for] a woman or an African-American," Gloria said. "I would love to see a joint ticket."
Clinton took 44 percent of the under-30 vote in Tennessee, while Obama claimed 53 percent. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee captured 38 percent of the youth vote and won the state, while Arizona Senator John McCain claimed 25 percent. (See all of Ogdin's Super Tuesday videos and blogs here.)
In Georgia, where Obama and Huckabee took home wins, young voters tripled their turnout this year, with more than 280,000 individuals casting a ballot Tuesday, compared to approximately 92,000 ballots cast in 2000. Obama secured 75 percent of the youth vote, over Clinton's 23 percent, while Huckabee's 43 percent overpowered former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's 24 percent. (Check out the reports from Georgia Street Team member Shelby Highsmith.)
When it came to California, where Clinton and McCain prevailed, more than 850,000 voters under 30 cast ballots, far surpassing 2000 and 2004 levels. Polls showed that 51 percent of Democratic voters ages 18-29 voted for Clinton, compared to 47 percent for Obama. (Carl Brown, the California Street Team journalist, talked to voters of all kind in his state.)
Youth turnout was the difference between a win and a loss in several states on Tuesday. In Missouri, where youth voter turnout tripled, Obama won by just 10,000 votes; 75,000 young people threw their support behind his candidacy. In the same state, 45,000 young people pulled the lever for Huckabee, far surpassing his 23,000 vote margin of victory. (Street Team member Steven Smith found Missourians who were too young to vote but still had opinions on the election.)
In Massachusetts, youth turnout doubled from 2000, with 231,000-plus hitting the polls this year. Clinton and Romney claimed victory in the Bay State, pulling in 49 and 52 percent of the youth vote, respectively; 48 percent of young voters supported Obama, while 36 percent voted for McCain. (See what Street Team member Kyle de Beausset found out about Massachusetts voters.)
More than 187,000 voters under 30 participated in New Jersey's primary, and while 59 percent of them voted for Obama, Clinton still grabbed a win in the Garden State. McCain, the Republican winner, garnered 46 percent of the youth vote, with Romney pulling 19 percent. Just next door in New York, where Clinton and McCain were the night's big winners, the youth voter turnout went relatively unchanged compared to 2000's results. And though he didn't win, New York's youngest voters loved Obama, giving him 56 percent of their votes over Clinton's 43 percent. McCain also captured 43 percent of the youth vote, while Romney claimed 21 percent. (Check out what New Jersey Street Teamer Sia Nyorkor and New York's Sara Benincasa reported Tuesday.)
Young people proved to be particularly crucial to Obama's victory in Connecticut, where youth voter turnout nearly doubled from 2000's primary — and Street Teamer Megan Budnick had trouble finding students who weren't apathetic or ill-informed about the election. Obama won voters younger than 30 by 19 points, receiving the support of 58 percent of this age group, compared to 39 percent who supported Clinton. McCain, who beat out the rest of the Republican pack in the Constitution State, took 51 percent of the youth vote, compared to Texas Congressman Ron Paul's 18 percent.
Meanwhile, 66,300 youth voters hit the polls in Utah — Obama and Romney country — with 70 percent supporting Barack's run and 88 percent getting behind Mitt. Oklahoma saw its number of voters under 30 triple, but exit polls didn't show for whom they voted. (Last but not least, here are the reports from Utah Street Team member Charles Geraci and Oklahoma's Jill Penuel.)
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