youth vote

The Youth Vote & The 2010 Midterm: Millennials Continue to Vote, Break for Democrats

For a segment of the electorate that was largely hyped by the mainstream media as being disinterested and disaffected, Millennial voters turned out to the 2010 polls in solid numbers. Almost nine million Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in yesterday's elections. In the last midterm, almost 10 million people in the same age group voted. According to a report by CIRCLE, "An estimated 20.4 percent of young Americans under the age of 30 voted in Tuesday’s midterm elections, compared to 23.5 percent in the last midterm election (2006)."

According to NDN Fellow and Millennial Expert Morley Wiinograd, "While the Millennial vote percent turnout was down from 2006, it was not down where youth outreach efforts were in place."  In fact, CIRCLE analysis shows us that we saw an increase in youth turnout in places where the Vote Again 2010 coalition (comprised of more than 30 non-profits focused on youth engagement) is highly active. In these areas where specific investment was made in the youth vote, youth turnout rose by six points compared to 1998. In contrast, we witnessed a decrease in voter turnout in the seven states where the Vote Again 2010 Coalition organizations were least active. For more data on these efforts and their effects, visit 

Rock the Vote, in their analysis echoed this sentment: “In the precincts where Rock the Vote and other groups invested in young people, we saw an increase in turnout," said Heather Smith, the group's Executive Director. "There was no ‘enthusiasm gap.’ It was a ‘leadership gap.’” According to Rock the Vote, "Vote tallies from  precincts where Rock the Vote aggressively targeted young people such as Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida, showed voter turnout amongst those ages 18-29 exceeded 2006 levels." You can read more about Rock the Vote's targeted efforts here:

Perhaps more interesting than the rates at which this demographic turned out is who they turned out for.  Young voters resisted the Republican "wave." In fact, this was the only age demographic that Republicans did not win.  And although they maintain their allegiance to Democrats (even without President Obama on the ballot - an erroneous distinction made by many pundits when predicting young voter enthusiasm) many in the youth community feel that the youth vote opportunity was not maximized by either party.  According to  Smith,"Candidates in both parties failed to really engage young people in their races.  Republicans failed to attract increased numbers of young voters, and it could have been a very different outcome for Democrats had their candidates implemented the lessons from 2008's winning playbook."

What each party learns from these numbers will be a story to watch moving into 2012.

What Happened with the NH Youth Vote?

We have plenty of theories this morning on how and why Clinton pulled out a win in the New Hampshire primary. I am happy to say the youth vote is not being blamed for Obama's loss and instead the Clinton campaign and even some pundits are saying it was because of the youth vote that she won.

Our first concern in the youth vote community was less about who won or lost, and more about how the surge in Iowa would be portrayed if Obama did not win. The conventional wisdom in 2004 was all young people were voting for Dean. That was not true, young voters were split between Kerry, Dean and Edwards. However, that didn't stop the media from blaming young people for Dean's loss. Additionally, when Kerry lost the general election, we spent the next four years explaining that young people did turn out beating a record high from 1992. In the end, it simply did not matter though, the media wrote the youth vote story and it was "young people are all hype, they say they will show up but don't."

Cynics and pundits are on message now. We did not hear many people last night blaming Obama's loss on young people and rather they were claiming it was young people who helped propel Clinton into victory. There may be something to that.

Obama has a wider youth campaign strategy and a broader youth movement happening right now which is why overall he has higher youth numbers. The Clinton campaign saw this and went after a group within the youth demographic they knew they could get-young professional women and working-class young people. Youth turnout overall jumped to 43% up from 18% in 2004.

Obama overwhelmingly got the 18-24 year old bloc (60% vs 22% for Clinton). The 18-29 year old bloc was split, with Clinton having a 2% advantage over Obama (37% Clinton, 35% Obama). If anything, the Clinton win gives the youth vote community an opportunity to tell the story that young people can and must be found on and off campus. Only about 25% of young people are in college, so if you want the youth vote you have to go where they live and where they hang out.

In last few days of the campaign, Clinton was able to appeal to working class young people with her message of Obama living in the clouds and she is working in the trenches. With this basic point, the Clinton campaign went after the 25-29 year old block.

We also can't overlook her moment of tears. Some will say it was contrived, but it seems women ages 25-29 looked at that as first time Clinton showed that politics is about passion, not just a job. Young women in this age group are working on their early careers, struggling with making it and probably have had moments like Clinton had in the coffee shop. They may have said to themselves "yeah, I know how that feels when you work your butt off, try your best and it doesn't seem to work out." So they gave her another shot with their votes.

The good news for young voters is both campaigns-and I would bet Edwards as well-are looking at how much they are investing in their youth programs. We will be watching how the candidates talk about young voters, talk to young voters and what their GOTV efforts look like in Nevada and South Carolina and leading into Super Tuesday.

Young voters now have to decide-are they "fired up" and "ready to go" or do they jump on the "experience" bus. At the very least, the campaigns will have to retool their youth programs to reach the youth communities in Nevada and South Carolina. South Carolina has a large African American population and Nevada has large Latino pollution two parts of the youth community that in 2004 voted in record numbers for Democrats. We are confident Democrats will win the youth vote, 80% of young people in Iowa and 61% in New Hampshire voted for Democrats. The only question we have is which Democrat will they go for?

Jane Fleming Kleeb is the Executive Director of the Young Voter PAC which helps Democratic candidates and State Parties win with the 18-35 year-old vote through endorsements, on-the-ground support, training, strategy and money. She is a regular on Fox and is part of MTV’s Street Team ‘08 representing Nebraska.

I Need a Hero

They say young people won't show up. They tell reporters young voters are just "icing on the cake." They remind candidates young people are the "elusive voter" who may come to rallies but can't be relied on to caucus. They even tell young voters to stay home because you are not "from" Iowa.

Some go on to say it's so difficult to get young people to the caucus that I might as well go searching for the Holy Grail instead. I have also been told I am chasing windmills by targeting young voters.

I ignore the naysayers and call young voters my heroes. I need you to do the same.

Young people showed up in 2004. They showed up in 2006. They will show up again on January 3rd, 2008 at caucus sites all over Iowa.

We know that if a candidate targets young people they will turnout. Young people are not any different than any other constituency group. You talk to us, we vote. You ignore us, we ignore you.

When the Young Voter PAC got word that the Iowa caucus date would be moved to when students were on winter break, we knew two things. One, we needed to help get students who may be away on break back to Iowa. Two, this would put a kink in the plans of Democratic candidates who have been targeting young people-those in school and those not in school-and that we couldn't let this stop the momentum in the campaigns of strong and historic young voter outreach.

What we didn't expect was candidates on "our team" telling young people that if they are not "from Iowa" that they should stay home. On some levels we knew why they were doing this, but no matter the political reason we knew it was wrong for Iowa and wrong for our nation to try and disenfranchise students.

We immediately wrote blog posts and press releases. We started a Facebook group to get the candidates to do the right thing by young voters and they did-all the major campaigns issued statements in support of students caucusing in Iowa. We decided we couldn't stop there.

We started a campaign telling young people to come back and caucus and asking those who are not eligible to caucus in Iowa to help support young voters by donating money to the cause.

Donors who support young voters stepped up. We bought a bunch of blog, Google and Facebook ads. We sent over 58,000 text messages and emails to registered Democrats, ages 18-35, in Iowa. We pulled together a corps of youth voting experts and young people caucusing to talk to reporters. We asked volunteers not eligible to caucus to come to Iowa so we can monitor some sites we know a lot of young people will show up at to make sure they don't get turned away at the door.

The requests for gas money and hotel rooms started to trickle in. At first the forms were a bit slow to come in, but as of today we are already up to over 150 young people coming back to caucus. The reasons for coming back to caucus are simply inspiring.

Never in my life have I felt like I have such a strong stake in the political process of America. I am an adamant supporter of my candidate and have never felt this strongly about a politician or candidate in my life. I see this election as being pivotal in American history, marking either the renewal of America in the eyes of the worlds or a continuing backward slide into ambiguity and a world of danger and fear.

Being a student at Grinnell gives me almost a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to caucus in Iowa, and as Iowa usually sets the pace for the rest of the caucuses around the nation, I wouldn't want to miss it.

I want to play a role and have an influence on these elections. Being born in Argentina and recently receiving my U.S. citizenship, I want to take advantage of the opportunities I have been given. I don't want to regret not participating and then feel guilty that my preferred candidate was not elected.

All eyes are on Iowa. Which candidate will pull it out? What will a win mean for the rest of the primary schedule? Who will help pull the winner over the finish line?

I have a different question.

Why not be a hero?

Let's show them what we got. If you are eligible to caucus, come back. Be loud and stand proud at your caucus.

If you are watching this from another state and want to help out, donate today to the Young Voter PAC.

Whether you caucus or donate, know you are representing our generation, one that will change politics-who participates and who wins.

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