Liz Elsewhere

The Politico , December 17th, 2007
“Can the youth vote make a difference?”
by Liz Mair Link to original source

The youth vote: It has been eagerly courted by politicians for years, and with just weeks to go until the Iowa caucuses, 2008 is set to prove no different.

But while a number of candidates continue to devote plenty of time and resources to cultivating strong support from youth voters, it remains unclear whether such backing is a valuable ingredient in the recipe for electoral success.

Past experience suggests it could be. Though both Sen. John F. Kerry and President George W. Bush attempted to drive up the youth vote, according to the Vanishing Voter Project at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, voting by eligible Americans under the age of 30 increased by only 9 percent in 2004. For Kerry, the failure of more young Americans to vote was decidedly unhelpful.

According to CNN's exit polls, 56 percent of 18- to 29-year-old voters favored Kerry. Had more turned out, he might have won.

Still, youth voting and efforts by the Democratic Party to reach out to younger voters did play a key role in handing Congress to Democrats in 2006.

According to a June 2007 report by the New Politics Institute, 18- to 29-year-old voters (members of the "millennial generation") supported Democrats by a 22-point margin last year. Moreover, the influence of younger voters making up the millennial generation looks likely to prove stronger than that of previous generations in their youth, partly because of its size.

According to NPI, there are more millennials than baby boomers - and what's more, they're more politically engaged than other generations. UCLA's 2006 American Freshmen survey showed that more freshmen (34 percent) had discussed politics frequently as high school seniors than at any time in the 40-year history of the survey. 

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