According to tabulations from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) young voters may have made all the difference in this year's presidential election.
CIRCLE reports that the turnout for young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 rose by at least 2.2 million from 2004's election. While exact data is still being compiled, CIRCLE estimates that between 21.6 million and 23.9 million young Americans voted in Tuesday's election — a figure based on national exit polls, demographic data and projections of total numbers of votes cast.
The group, which promotes research on the civic and political engagement of Americans between the ages of 15 and 25, projects the youth voter turnout to be between 49.3 and 54.5 percent, which represents an increase of 1 to 6 percentage points over CIRCLE's estimate based on the 2004 exit polls.
"From a nonpartisan perspective, it is heartening to see young people so motivated and engaged in a national election," CIRCLE director Peter Levine said in a press release. "Young Americans are also involved in community service at record rates. We must build on the momentum from this election to find ways to keep them civically engaged. It is also critical that those who did not vote for Barack Obama or who did not vote at all, will feel included in politics, government and community affairs."
As of noon on Wednesday (November 5), about 120 million votes had been counted, although many states had not yet reported all of their precincts. The youth turnout — if preliminary estimates hold — could end up being the second-highest since 1972, when 55.4 percent of eligible voters aged 18 to 29 hit the polls. As the numbers currently stand, young voters account for about 18% of the election's total ballot-casters.
CIRCLE claims young voters favored Obama over John McCain by a two-to-one margin.
"Yesterday, more young people voted than in any election since 18-year-olds won the right to vote in 1972," Rock the Vote Executive Director Heather Smith said. "This is truly a remarkable moment; young people have spoken and elected the next president. No longer can pundits and politicians say we don't vote. The face of our democracy is forever changed and young people have shown the world we are taking our country into our own hands."
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