Millennials Rising: The Youth vote is with us again, and again

The San Francisco Chronicle had a front page story today on “Growing Youth Turnout is Good News for Dems.” I’m biased because I anchor the piece at the end, but I do think this is a great quick analysis of the growing strategic importance of the Millennial Generation on progressive politics.

Much of it was based on a bipartisan exit poll of 500 18-to-29-year-olds done by GOP pollster Ed Goeas and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake for Young Voter Strategies in Washington, D.C. This poll and others quoted lump young adults as everyone under age 30, though the New Politics Institute and other analysts consider the up-and-coming Millennial generation (those born in the 1980s and 1990s) to be age 26 and under. Still it’s a close alignment.

Some key findings: two million more young people voted Tuesday than in the 2002 midterm elections. This generation is civic-minded and gung-ho about getting involved in politics.

It’s not just turnout but how they voted and which party they identify with:

“According to CNN exit polls, 60 percent of voters under 30 cast ballots for Democrats. Seventy-eight percent of young people who vote for the same party in three elections in a row are likely to remain a member of that party through adulthood, said pollster Goeas.

"We lost (the youth vote) in 2004 by 11 percent," Goeas said of Republicans. Now, with that number doubling this year, according to early exit polls, Goeas worried that a generation of the electorate is growing up as reliable Democrats.

According to the bipartisan Goeas-Lake exit polls, 40 percent of young voters said they identify with Democrats, 30 percent with Republicans and 23 percent with independents. However, half reported that they voted for Democrats, and 35 percent said they cast ballots for Republicans.”

This is truly good news for progressives because this Millennial Generation is no ordinary generation – it is massive in size, a full 75 million people, and it rivals the size of the baby boom. If the Boomers had split this dramatically, the last 25 years of conservative ascendancy would not have happened.

The piece also made the point that this high turnout was not all about the new tools, though it started to make a difference. My quote at the end of the piece addresses this:

"The 2006 election was an experimental one for new media," said Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute, a liberal San Francisco think tank that focuses on the intersection of new media tools and politics. "But even if it wasn't fully integrated into campaigns, what things like YouTube did was energize and excite young people about politics."

Peter Leyden