Mitt Romney may have edged Rick Santorum to take Tuesday's Iowa caucus, but Ron Paul's third-place finish gives his campaign plenty of momentum heading into next week's New Hampshire primary ... and new data indicates he owes much of that showing to the support of young voters in the state.
According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, four percent of all eligible Iowa voters under the age of 30 took part in Tuesday's presidential caucuses, and Paul was the clear-cut favorite among them, drawing the support of 48 percent of the under-30s, compared to 23 percent for Santorum and 14 percent for Romney.
As part of MTV's ongoing Power of 12 campaign, MTV News was on the ground in Iowa, speaking with those same young voters who lifted Paul to his third-place finish, and on Tuesday night, they were feeling excited and empowered by the process, and about what lies ahead next week for their candidate.
"Even if Dr. Paul doesn't win [the Republican nomination], he's still woken up America," caucus-goer John Stein said. "There's definitely a lot of activists ready to promote liberty in America now."
"I believe that we see support for him because of the fact where technology plays such a pivotal point of our lives, and no one wants to have their private lives for the world to see," 19-year-old Zach Miller added. "And Ron Paul's an advocate for privacy and personal liberty, and that's one of the key issues of why I support him."
Most Paul supporters we spoke to mentioned his willingness to stick to his core beliefs — and his libertarian-leaning policies — as reasons why he stands out from his fellow Republicans presidential hopefuls, and why they hope he'll secure the nomination.
"I really support Ron Paul because of his libertarian position on things, like [he's] fiscally conservative but socially more liberal, and that's not a viewpoint that a lot of the more mainstream Republicans have," 19-year-old Jacob Smith said. "Sometimes it's a little more difficult to convince them that it's a good thing, and so a lot of support is going to Romney and them, but [they're] not as consistent, and they don't follow the Constitution as much, and staying with the Constitution is very important to me, because it's what our country is built on."
And though young Paul supporters know their candidate faces a tough challenge in New Hampshire, they're confident he can carry the state and they feel his strong showing in Iowa is just the beginning of a groundswell of momentum.
"We're turning out in droves for people like Ron Paul," 21-year-old Cahlen Brancheau said. "And [we're] driving for more strong solutions."
MTV is on the scene in Iowa! Head to Iowa.MTV.com for all our Iowa caucus coverage, and stick with PowerOf12.org throughout the presidential election season to follow Andrew Jenks on the campaign trail.