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Do you think young voters will make a difference in the election?

This Reuters article, Young voters — a wild card in 2006 U.S. elections, notes that the margin of victory will be so small in many races that the turnout of young people (18-24) could make a difference.

This is a demo group that is frequently touted about and talked about in the media (even courted with Rock the Vote campaigns), but it’s a sector that simply doesn’t consistently vote at the rate other age groups do. While the Reuters article points out that a record number of young folks voted, it wasn’t a greater percentage of that demo than before. SFGate, in 2004:

…polls from the Harvard Institute of Politics, the Pew Research Center and MTV all predicted that that this would be the year that the long- ballyhooed youth vote would finally make a difference in the presidential race. The youth voter pool is immense — 40.6 million Americans are between 18 and 29, comprising 1 in 5 eligible voters — but it has rarely been a factor in the 32 years since 18-year-olds have been eligible to vote. Four years ago, just 37 percent of 18-24-year-olds voted.

But despite all the efforts, an Associated Press exit poll survey found that fewer than 1 in 10 voters Tuesday were 18 to 24, about the same proportion of the electorate as in 2000.

One significant point made in the Reuters article is that while Republicans have done a poor job of registering young people — Dems are quite successful here, and have support in polls — the Republicans actually turn out the votes.

A nationwide survey released this month showed young Americans prefer Democrats to Republicans by a 21-point margin, up from 19 percent in April.

That’s enough to cost some Republican candidates the race, said Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster who analyzed the survey taken by the nonpartisan “Young Voter Strategies.” He said if young voters turn out in November in the same numbers as in the 2002 mid-term elections, they could give Democrats a 1.8 percentage point advantage, enough to sway any of several razor-tight races this year.

“We can do a better job, as Republicans, addressing the registration of the younger voters,” he said.

But Democrats also face a challenge. Although they have a clear advantage in numbers, the poll shows young Republicans are more intensely loyal and likely to vote. “The Democratic base continues to need work,” said Democratic pollster Celinda Lake in Washington. “Young voters are not very engaged.”

IMHO, about the only thing that would motivate young people to vote in much more significant numbers would be a draft. Any thoughts?

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding