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The Youth Vote: Still Pro-Democratic, Turnout Average for a Midterm Election

I mentioned this before, but a lot of losses for Democrats were baked into the cake last night simply because of the relative age of a midterm electorate. In the modern, non-Boll Weevil Democrat era, we’ve seen two midterms for a Democratic President that were absolute slaughters. The midterms for Republican Presidents were occasionally bad, but not nearly as bad. You can attribute this to the shape of the electorate.

CNN reported in its exit poll that seniors over 65 made up 24% of the electorate in 2010. They made up 16% in 2008. This time, they voted 59% GOP. Last time, they voted 53%.

By contrast, voters under 29 still supported Democrats but didn’t show up in the same numbers as in 2008.

18-29-year-olds voted for Democrats over Republicans by 16 points (56-40) with 4% responding: “Other/No answer”

18-24-year-olds voted for Democrats over Republicans by 19 points (58-39) with 3% responding: “Other/No answer”

These are pretty robust numbers, while a drop from 2008 (66% of voters 18-29 supported Obama). But that can be attributed to turnout. Youth turnout was comparable to recent midterm years and remarkably stable. Youth didn’t vote more or less than they did, roughly speaking, than in other midterms. But they did vote less than they did in 2008. In 2008, youth voters made up 18% of the electorate; this year, they made up 11%.

You had an older electorate of angry voters who believed Obama stole their freedom and cut their Medicare. The results are pretty clear. While it’s slightly comforting to see the trend of young voters supporting Democrats in big numbers, it’s unclear that will always hold as people age.

If the Democrats don’t want to go through this every four years in off-elections, they need to build their advantage on the type of voters who actually turn out in midterm elections. There’s evidence that Latinos had pretty darn good turnout in 2010, and probably saved Harry Reid’s bacon in Nevada. That’s one place to start.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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