Youth Vote: The Power of Registration

Each election cycle brings with it the promise of increased citizen participation, especially among eligible voters aged 18-24. This election cycle is no different. But unlike year's past, the internet will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the election, especially amongst the aforementioned age group. Perhaps the most blatant example of the Internet's influence is a single link Google added to their homepage; the link reads "Sign up to vote in your state. Get registered today!"

Clicking the link takes you to a specialized Google Maps page that asks for your legal place of residence. Upon submitting your address, Google presents an assortment of links regarding registration deadlines, absentee requests, and other voting information specific to your state; it couldn't be easier. This simple link will alter the election, here's why.

Anybody between the age of 18 and 24 visits Google at least once a day. Many people in this age group have the intention of voting, but are simply unaware of the requirements for registration. This link may provide the needed incentive. Let's take a look at how registration effects voting in this age group. I've compiled a graph of historical registration data and voter turnout for the youth demographic, aged 18-24. The graph below shows the percentage of registered voters and the percent of actual voters in the eligible population: Youth Vote (1972-2004): Registered vs. Voted

Source: U.S. Census Bureau [.xls]

As I'm sure you can tell, not everybody who is registered actually votes. The average vote per registration ratio amongst voters aged 18-24 is approximately .78, or for every 100 registered voters, 78 actually go to the polls. This ratio is almost ten points lower than the the national average and presents an interesting question: why is the youth demographic so heavily targeted? The answer is simple, they tend to vote Democratic. The graph below illustrates who they voted for in the past four presidential elections as data prior to the 1992 election groups the 18-24 age group into a larger 18-29 group; the trend however, still seems to hold: Youth Vote (1992-2004): Who Youth Vote For

Source: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research

In the past four election cycles the youth vote has been divided, on average, 51% to the Democratic candidate, and 39.5% to the Republican candidate, with the remaining votes cast for other parties. What does this all mean? Any registered voter aged 18-24 has a statistical probability of voting for the Democratic candidate 39.8% of the time, and only a 30.8% chance of voting Republican. The votes unaccounted for are either cast for another party, or not cast at all. This means that for every 100 registered voters aged 18-24, the Democrats accrue a 9 vote advantage. Apply this to a larger scale, such as the Google link, and the participation of the youth demographic could easily swing the election in the Democrat's favor.

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11 Response(s) to Youth Vote: The Power of Registration

1
Anonymous
10/3/2008 8:54:08 AM CT

You are grossly underestimating the margins by which young voters will (and during the primaries have) voted for Obama. That 9 votes per 100 registrations is closer to double that
2
YouthofAmerica
10/5/2008 12:12:28 AM CT

It's been estimated that youth voters favor Obama by a margin of 70% to 23%. In the primaries, youth voters turned out with a 56% improvement from 2004 - it was 91% in Iowa! No doubt the youth vote will carry Obama as long as we show up at the polls. I see voter registrations and canvassing almost everyday on campus and never seen such enthusiasm for one candidate in my relatively short lifetime!
3
Dee
10/5/2008 4:12:55 AM CT

don't worry about the polls!!!! Just get out and vote!!!!!! Vote early, don't wait until the last minute!!!!!!!
4
Tracy in Illinois
10/5/2008 9:12:43 AM CT

My 18-year old college freshman just completed his absentee ballot yesterday and I'll mail it in for him tomorrow. He felt so proud to be voting for Barack! Can't wait until November 4th folks :o)
5
Don Nelson
10/5/2008 7:56:59 PM CT

I know the youth vote will be good and I think many seniors will surprise everyone by voting Obama. I just returned from visiting my grandma in an upscale retirement community in Ventura CA. The last few elections, all that was displayed were republican yard signs ETC. This time I saw no republican signs but at least 15-20 Obama signs.
6
Loretta
10/5/2008 8:26:35 PM CT

I will be 70 very soon. Four years ago, I heard & saw Barack Obama for the first time (Democrat Convention speech). I turned to my teenage granddaughter & said "Oh, I wish he'd run for President". Well, I got my wish, sooner than expected. In all these years, this is the first election in which I have (1) volunteered (2) donated money several times to a campaiign (3) staying current daily by watching latest campaign news & what misc. polls are reflecting on at least two television stations (CNN & MSNBC).

MY FEAR IS THAT THE YOUNG PEOPLE MAY NOT SEE THIS THROUGH TO THE END. I HOPE I'M UNDERESTIMATING THEM!!! I WILL MAKE SURE MY GRANDDAUGHTER VOTES FOR THE FIRST TIME...BUT I CAN'T BE THERE TO ENCOURAGE ALL THE OTHER WONDERFUL YOUNG PEOPLE THAT ARE SO ACTIVELY AND ENTHUSIASTICALLY INVOLVED IN THIS ELECTION. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK .......GO OBAMA 08!
7
donkhunt
10/9/2008 3:17:14 AM CT

Thank you so much for your enthusiasm Loretta. The youth will in fact show up for Obama. They will show up in numbers never seen before. :)
8
DanaP
10/9/2008 10:30:08 AM CT

This is obviously not a scientific sample, but I just wanted to tell you all of my recent experience registering voters and their party identification: I had a DJ on the local New Mexico KISS FM station ask me to register voters in conjunction with her pushing it on her morning radio program. Working as a non partisan, 7:00 a.m. till 9:30 a.m. for 7 days with the radio's promotion's van we registered 167 voters. The breakdown? 115 Democrats, 15 Republicans and 37 either Independent or no party.
9
DanaP
10/9/2008 10:32:28 AM CT

Also, the ages and races were mixed and we moved to a different site in Albuquerque each day. I don't know the numbers, but generally there were more youth and many, many first time voters who were VERY fired up and enthusiastic...
10
daedalus
10/11/2008 11:07:03 AM CT

I think this time around, there are many more groups on campuses who are taking students to the boards of elections for early voting here in Ohio. I am assuming it is the same way in other states with early voting. I worked for an organization during Ohio's Golden Week that brought 3300 voters - mostly students - to the polls, nearly all of them Obama supporters. (info http://www.washingtonrox.blogspot.com) We were just one of many orgs doing this. Right now my team in Cincinnati is getting vans together to continue doing this right up to Election Day. Students have no excuse not to vote when they have free rides. After I left the UC campus on Tuesday, it seemed like the whole student body was talking about this election.

For the record - I haven't seen one GOP group doing this.
11
UMCanes
10/23/2008 1:10:27 PM CT

There are a lot of young people that will be voting this election...including myself. Recently though, I've been wondering what the most important issues for us are...until I stumbled on these two surveys and I'm pretty sure that these reflect what we should really care about...what do you think?

http://www.campuscompare.com/survey/economic

http://www.campuscompare.com/survey/prejudice

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