Obama Calls Youth Voters To Action, Research Shows Democrats Need Them
The future, he said, is "at stake."
His visit to Bowie State University in Maryland coincides with the release of new research indicating that young voters may be more tuned out than usual.
According to the Pew Research Center, "53% of voters 30 and older are giving a lot of thought to the election, compared with just 31% of young voters -- a 22-point gap. In 2006, there was an 11-point difference; 50% of voters 30 and older, and 39% of those younger than age 30, were giving a lot of thought to the election."
There is also a large gap between voters who say they're certain to vote: 76 percent of voters over 30 say they will definitely vote, compared with 45 percent of voters under 30 who say they will.
Most noteworthy, however, may be the political leaning of those less informed about the midterm elections.
The new research shows, "Just 27% of young voters who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party have given a lot of thought to this election, down from 47% four years ago. Among older Democrats, there also has been a decline, from 53% in 2006 to 43% today."
The 2008 election saw record youth participation with 52 percent of young Americans voting. This figure represented the “third-highest showing of young voters — about 22 million, topped only by the turnout in 1992 and in 1972.”
But experts say there hasn’t been any evidence in state elections since then to suggest that similar behavior is here to stay.
Youth voter turnout in January’s special election to replace Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts was estimated at 15 percent, with the turnout for people over 30 at about 57 percent. Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial elections in 2009 saw similarly low numbers with 17 and 19 percent youth voter turnout.
Experts and pollsters frequently refer to the "enthusiasm gap" between Republican and Democratic voters.
"Overall, Republican and Republican-leaning voters are far more enthusiastic this fall than in any of the last four midterms. Fully two-thirds (67%) of Republican voters age 30 and older say they have given a lot of thought to the election, which is much higher than in recent midterm elections, including in 1994 when Republicans won control of Congress (53% in the fall of 1994). Young Republicans continue to be less engaged than older Republicans," according to the Pew research.
Obama aides said he hopes to narrow this gap by reaching out to youth voters.
His speech focused on issues like the high cost of education, access to student loans and health care benefits for students.
Thursday's visit to Bowsie State overlapped with the National Day of Action, when students, parents, teachers and workers across the country took to the streets to protest budget cuts.
Three dozen attendees of Obama's rally were reportedly treated by the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department for fainting and dehydration, and two were sent to area hospitals.
Obama's youth focus will continue through next week when he visits a rally in Philadelphia on Sunday and hosts a youth town hall on MTV on Thursday, Oct. 14.
To reach editor-in-chief Callie Schweitzer, click here.
To follow her on Twitter: @cschweitz
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