Our Unexcited Youth

Last year, 23-year-old Rashida Hill watched the presidential debates, visited the college political party meetings and put a Barack Obama bumper sticker on her townhouse door. She voted for Obama because she felt like the election was about "being a part of something."

But on Tuesday, the Virginia Commonwealth University student didn't bother voting in the governor's race because, she said, the candidates didn't give her anything to get excited about.

"The simple fact is, unless you put it in front of somebody, they're really not going to seek it out," Hill said.

Young voters turned out in fewer numbers for Tuesday's elections in both Virginia and New Jersey than they did in 2008 for the presidential election. That's not really a surprise since off-year elections generally generate less excitement. Overall, more than 3 million voters who cast ballots in the 2008 presidential election failed to show up at the polls in either state.

The youth vote, the lack of it, is troubling. In Virginia voters under age 30 accounted for just 10 percent of the electorate on Tuesday, compared with 21 percent in 2008. It was even worse in New Jersey. Young adults ages 18 to 29 compromised only 8 percent of the total New Jersey voter turnout. In 2009, the youth vote comprised 17 percent of New Jersey's electorate.

The importance of getting the young to turn out cannot be overstated. In New Jersey, 66 percent of those under 30 voted for Governor Corzine. Just 25 percent voted for the Republican Chris Christie. In Virginia given an 11 point drop-off and the lack of excitement for the Democrat Creigh Deeds generally, the youth split nearly evenly with Deeds capturing 51 percent to McDonnell's 49 percent.

This is not to blame our poor performance yesterday on the young because there were other factors involved. In Virginia, 15 percent of African Americans turned out compared with 20 percent last year. The bigger factor was both drop-off in the number of independents and their swing to the GOP. Independents made up the smallest part of the electorate turnout in both states - contributing 29 percent of the total vote in Virginia and 28 percent in New Jersey. McDonnell received 62 percent of the independent vote, while Deeds managed only 37 percent. In the Garden State Christie took 58 percent of the independent vote, while Corzine received only 31 percent. This more than anything did Corzine in.

Still, I think this statistic is pretty telling. If the Electoral College vote had been determined by only those 29 or younger, Obama would have trounced McCain 475 to 63. Obama carried this demographic in states like Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, South Carolina, Arizona, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, Nebraska, North and South Dakota. Clearly, it pays off electorally speaking to engage the young and make them "part of something."

Tags: new jersey, Virginia, youth vote (all tags)

Comments

38 Comments

Independents are not our friends

The fewer of them voting the better.  If its just Democrats and Republicans voting, Democrats will win.  

by Kent 2009-11-04 08:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

I can't find the full context. What was overall turnout?

Kids are busy: in school, at work, having sex, or getting into mischief. Get off their backs!

by QTG 2009-11-05 12:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

related fake news

SUB-ROSA NEWS

Some of the News
That may be True

                 CANDIDATES URGED TO BE FAT

In a conference call yesterday, Republican consultant Oliver B. Reese advised party leaders to seek candidates who were overweight.  "Not obese, mind you" said Reese, despite the success of President Taft. But just enough poundage to tempt opponents to imply that you were too fat to serve.

Obie, to use Reese's nickname, explained further that voters believe that heavy people were more trustworthy, perhaps jolly. Also, voters can relate better to corpulent candidates, since many Americans exceed the weight chart standards.

In addition to last Tuesday's results, history suggests that this is a winning strategy. Skinny Obama's poll numbers are down and we know how famously fit George W. Bush performed in office. So follow President Clinton's lead, get those Big Macs.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

by altara 2009-11-05 02:49AM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

When 50 percent of you don't have a job and your generation is being referred to as the "lost generation," one may not see how Democratic politicians promising more of the same will help.

by bruh3 2009-11-05 03:14AM | 0 recs
A correction

unemployment among the young is 18%, not 50%, as your post might be read to imply.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/con tent/09_42/b4151032038302.htm

by JJE 2009-11-05 04:47AM | 0 recs
An interesting point

To what extent can the collapse in turnout among the young be attributed to the collapse in the economy.

According to the piece you cite:


Only 46% of people aged 16-24 had jobs in September, the lowest since the government began counting in 1948. The crisis is even hitting recent college graduates. "I've applied for a whole lot of restaurant jobs, but even those, nobody calls me back," says Dan Schmitz, 25, a University of Wisconsin graduate with a bachelor's degree in English who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. "Every morning I wake up thinking today's going to be the day I get a job. I've not had a job for months, and it's getting really frustrating."

Political Scientists have long understood that political preferences are defined in early adulthood.  For example, FDR created an entire generation of Democratic Leaning voters.

It strikes me reading this piece that those between 16 - 30 are probably very much up for grabs.  They didn't like the Iraq War, and responded to Obama in a way I have never fully understood.  But unless economic circumstances change for them I would not be surprised to see them drift right.

The conclusion here is that there is a whole generation literally up for grabs.  

by fladem 2009-11-05 06:33AM | 0 recs
independents typically vote in lower numbers

in off-year elections. So do partisans, but independents usually make up a smaller share of the electorate in an off-year than in a presidential year.

Mobilizing the youth vote will be a challenge for Democrats across the country next year. That's one of my big concerns in Iowa, even though Democrats still have a strong voter registration advantage here.

by desmoinesdem 2009-11-05 03:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

The statistics on "independents" are a largely meaningless artifact of the snapshot nature of polls. Those who decline to identify by party nonetheless reliably vote for one party, if they vote at all, and they aren't easier to persuade to change votes than those who do identify by party.

Our problem was turnout and base enthusiasm. Obama and Congress have to deliver on some big promises if they want to fend off big Republican gains next year.

by souvarine 2009-11-05 03:33AM | 0 recs
A base

that will turn out only after legislative victories have already been won is a stupid base indeed.

by JJE 2009-11-05 04:32AM | 0 recs
Re: A base

 The only solution is to primary all non-progressive democrats. It's the only solution. THIS IS WAR!

by QTG 2009-11-05 04:40AM | 0 recs
Re: A base

Right...do for the Democrats what the Club for Growth and the assembled Wingnuttia are doing for the Republicans.  

Wait a sec....

by InigoMontoya 2009-11-05 07:10AM | 0 recs
Re: We have a bad case of the

'zacleys

by QTG 2009-11-05 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: A base

Why should the base show up when it knows the Democrats already have the majorities , but refuses to use the majorities to enact mainstream policies? If you think you will receive the same narrow range of economic policies regardless, what is the incentive? The problem here is not that they are stupid. It is that they are smart enough to realize that they only have a limited number of tools to hold Democrats accountable. Now, you are saying they are not even suppose to exercise that one. How far are we going to go with not holding politicians accountable for the effects of their actions?

by bruh3 2009-11-05 04:40AM | 0 recs
Please take another read

Souvarine suggests the base will not turn out unless they see that the Democrats have won major legislative victories (apparently the stimulus doesn't count).  That is, in fact, quite stupid.  A team that takes the field only after the game is over is a stupid team.

What Souvarine is saying is not the same thing that you are saying.  You are saying that the Democrats are failing to contrast themselves sufficiently with the Republicans.

by JJE 2009-11-05 04:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Please take another read

I am providing you the mechanism by which Souvarine's point is valid and a way to understand voters behavior according to the limited choices that voters have to demonstrate their displeasure in a two party system.  

If your team does not have sufficient legislation upon which to contrast after governing, people will not come out to vote for you since it is no longer a case of mere campaign rhetoric . '

Their behavior is actually quite smart if you understand your interest (power) is not their interest (policy). Since your team does not care as much about their policy, the threat to your team must be over the power you crave because this is what will convince you given the limited choices.

I doubt many voters think this rationally about it, but that's the core dynamic. They don't see a point of voting if you are not already acting in ways that suggest you will use that power in a manner to enact policy. You are not offering them a reason to vote for you.

by bruh3 2009-11-05 05:08AM | 0 recs
I don't find this persuasive

if this were the case, nobody would ever vote for a non-incumbent, because such a person would never have the requisite legislative record.

by JJE 2009-11-05 05:13AM | 0 recs
Re: I don't find this persuasive

I think you are misunderstanding the argument.

Where a party is out of power, yes, of course, voters are willing to give the team a shot based on rhetoric alone.

However, this is not the case we are addressing now. We are addressing a party in power for what would be two years by the time of the election in 2010. So, you have gone beyond campaign promises. People have seen you in action. They will judge you as a party based on this.

"Why should I put all this effort into your team when I have not seen any returns on my prior investment in your team?" That's the question the party needs to answer.  

by bruh3 2009-11-05 05:24AM | 0 recs
But the Dems who lost

were in state races.  In the two federal races, the Dems won.  So why were these voters rewarding Dems at the federal level and punishing them at the state level?

by JJE 2009-11-05 05:40AM | 0 recs
Re: But the Dems who lost

Because voting is a blunt  instrument in a 2 party system. It is not one that allows finely tuned messaging that precisely defines what is behind voter behavior. When people say it is the economy stupid! They mean it is the economic policies that people want.

To understand more deeply what is happening we must examine  polling, the overall environment, etc. Then you add into the mix understanding of politics and how it works in America. That's how we can really tell what's happening with voters.

So, when I look at Virginia, I am not saying it makes perfect since as a finely tuned message, but it makes sense as a blunt instrument about what the base thinks of right leaning Democrats.

I am saying that when Deeds numbers stagnated after he said he would opt out of the public option is sending a message. Certainly his subsequent lose after going further right tells you that this is not what the base of the party wants the Democrats to do to entice them to the polls.  

But all of this, is a blunt instrument that fires widely tending to hit a lot of unintended consequences like Blue Dogs using this as an excuse to go further right because they believe they can  get the voters who do show up. This is clearly false, but that's what they believe.

Again, this requires accepting we have a 2 party system and what that limitation means. The base not showing up is a sign of displeasure with the Democrats moving to far right, but then the right winger winning becomes an argument that right wingers are preferred. It is more a sign that no one was offering the Democratic base a reason to show up. Why should they? They were going to get crap either way.  So, the easier route to winning is not convince voters with a predisposition against you. It is to convince voters who agree with you to show up because you provide them with that emotional investment in your success. They are not in this for your power. They are in this for their emotional need.

by bruh3 2009-11-05 05:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Please take another read

The base turned out to elect all these Democrats in the first place.  It's not like when we say "the base" we are referring to a bunch of hypothetical people who haven't even voted for Democrats yet.

I don't think we're cognizant of this bait-and-switch game we play with voters where we're always like "vote for Democrats and these good things will happen!" and then a couple years down the road it's like "hey look, you should have known change doesn't happen overnight, you're going to need to keep voting for Democrats and hope it all happens this time."  We can rail all we want about how people are too impatient, but everyone has a different tolerance for being strung along like that.

It really doesn't matter if the "base" is stupid.  Remember what Adlai Stevenson said about needing a majority?  The challenge of politics is winning support from the people as they are, not from how they ought to be in some theoretical enlightened world.  The Republicans sure didn't mind that it was a bunch of total yahoos who empowered them to run the government for all those years.

by Steve M 2009-11-05 05:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Please take another read

The statement "base is stupid" may or may not be true. I tend to think it is. But, here, in this context, it seems self serving in that it creates a mechanism for a lack of accountability. The base is using one of the only tools they have in  a 2 party system to address getting what they want- the politician's need for power. This is by nature in a 2 party system a blunt instrument, which produces as much harm as good because if you don't vote for the Democrat, a Republican may win. However, with limited options you have to do what you can do given the options available to you.

by bruh3 2009-11-05 05:35AM | 0 recs
Re: Please take another read

We are treating it like a conscious decision when it most cases it's really not.  Very few people are sitting around literally saying, "I agree with the Democratic agenda, but they just haven't done enough to excite me, so I'm not going to vote this year."  Very few people are saying, "Maybe if we all stay home in protest, the Democrats will realize they're not doing enough and then stuff will happen."

To the extent anyone is actually saying that (you see it some on the blogs), yes, they're idiots.  But far more common is people who don't vote because subconsciously they just don't see a compelling reason to, without it being part of a calculated strategy to refrain from voting.  The job of Democrats is to give them that compelling reason, and not to sit around saying "if they don't already realize how critical it is to defeat the Republicans, then they're idiots!"

You seem to be characterizing it as a mostly conscious phenomenon which I don't think is quite right.

by Steve M 2009-11-05 05:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Please take another read

No, I think it is an emotional response as a result of this: "But far more common is people who don't vote because subconsciously they just don't see a compelling reason to." What I am doing here is providing JJE with the underlying arguments for why this emotional response makes sense on a rational level.

by bruh3 2009-11-05 06:02AM | 0 recs
I'm not saying

we should pretend the base is enlightened.  But this idea that the base would turn out in large numbers if only the Democrats had done what Markos Moulitsas and MyDD commenters advocate for the past 9 months seems grounded more in pundit's fallacy than reality.

by JJE 2009-11-05 05:51AM | 0 recs
Re: I'm not saying

Well, sometimes Markos is going to be right, even if it's only twice a day.  But I'm not sure how anyone can look at the Virginia race and fail to draw a lesson about what happens when you alienate the base of your party.

by Steve M 2009-11-05 05:57AM | 0 recs
But why was the base alienated?

Was it because Deeds tacked right, or because the base is frustrated with the lack of progress on key policy programs in Congress.  The former seems a lot more plausible than the latter.  Of course the base will not be enthusiastic about a conservadem, but some folks appear to be attributing base disillusionment to the last 9 months in DC.

by JJE 2009-11-05 06:48AM | 0 recs
Re: But why was the base alienated?

I'm no guru, but I'd think it was moreso the former.

There's certainly a degree of disillusionment and ennui among Democratic voters nationwide... but not so much that every Democrat is going to lose by 20 points the way Deeds did!

by Steve M 2009-11-05 06:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Please take another read

The stimulus counts a little right now, but arguing that you made things less worse is not politically persuasive.

I think it will be hard to turn out the base in 2010 if Obama fails to make progress on his own priorities, but I doubt Obama will fail. Health care reform is just around the corner, the economy will have shown continual improvement through the next year (thanks to the stimulus) and our reputation in the world is vastly improved. We can argue about the shape of each of these changes, but for most Democrats Obama's record will be a powerful plus in the 2010 election.

I'm explaining why Democratic candidates who run on a Democratic record will do better than candidates who run away from the Democratic record, even in conservative districts, in 2010. And by the same logic why it is important for Democratic representatives to continue to move Obama's agenda forward in Congress.

by souvarine 2009-11-05 06:52AM | 0 recs
Remember

Young people still overwhelmingly approve of both the President and Congress, so while they may have been dissolutioned by Deeds and Corzine, they certainly aren't by the President and Congress.

Hence, they SHOULD turn out next year, but I wouldn't be shocked if they didn't even if they Democrats did deliver on their promises.

THIS is the problem.

by ND22 2009-11-05 08:55AM | 0 recs
Re: A base

"Why should the base show up when it knows the Democrats already have the majorities , but refuses to use the majorities to enact mainstream policies?...they are smart enough to realize that they only have a limited number of tools to hold Democrats accountable."

I'll take it a step further.  I'm a liberal under-25 Democrat in Virginia.  I voted for Kaine ('05) and Webb ('06) and Obama (twice in '08) and Warner ('08) and Judy Feder twice for Congress ('06 and '08).  I campaigned for Obama and Webb and Perriello.  I'm already not thrilled with what I've gotten for helping elect those guys.  But when our candidate for Governor is talking about opposing Cap-and-Trade and trying to opt the state out of a public option, I don't just feel ignored, I feel spat on.  I didn't vote this time because I'm not going to vote for a candidate who's campaigning on opposing and obstructing the Democratic agenda.

by ZachPruckowski 2009-11-05 03:04PM | 0 recs
Read the article

you linked to.  If you had invested hope in a politician, and year later you still were without a job and had little hope of finding one, I wonder if you would vote.

by fladem 2009-11-05 06:34AM | 0 recs
Re: A base

Most of the people who reliably turn out for every election are people who have enough control over their own time to do so. The rest of us need a reason to put voting ahead of the other priorities in our day.

Poor people, working class people, and a set of professionals, have a hard enough time making time for their kids, much less voting. You can call those people, the Democratic base, stupid, but that would suggest that your own priorities are more aligned with those of the Republican party.

In any case a Democrat has to win with the base that he has, not with the base that he wished he had.

by souvarine 2009-11-05 06:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

Some independents are just hidden partisans, to be sure, but certainly not all of them.

by Steve M 2009-11-05 05:24AM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

I'm making a stronger claim, that there are not enough independents (people who don't identify by party who are available to either party) to make a difference in U.S. elections. Yes, they exist, but they are such a small proportion of the electorate, and their motivations are so contradictory, as to be immaterial to the result. Parties have much better success going after opposing partisans on specific issues, that is both a larger pool of winnable votes and a pool of voters that is easier to persuade.

Even when the portion of "independents" was at its peak, in 1992, the independent candidate Perot won twice as many votes from identified partisans as he got from "independents". And each major party won more "independents" than Perot's independent party.

But in an off year election "independents" are even less relevant, people who don't align politically don't vote. The entire focus of a campaign should be motivating voters to bother to vote. The tragedy of the Deeds campaign is obvious in the turnout, he never bothered to appeal to the hundreds of thousands of new voters Obama identified last year, not to mention the Democratic base vote. Corzine's was more complicated, he had alienated the NJ Democratic machine.

Republican base voters are traditionally more reliable, they are generally better off than Democrats and have more control of their time.

by souvarine 2009-11-05 06:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

Obama and the Democrats challenge is to bring these younger voters into the party and teach what it means to be part of a party.

Getting young people involved is extremely difficult because if you go to party meetings at the local level you are usally dealing with a bunch of older folks and the work to be done isn't all that exciting.

I think this is where the Republicans had the edge for so many years.   They were recruiting voters from a religeous background who were used to working within their churches on various projects and understood how to work with people of different ages and how to dedicate themselves to something bigger than themselves.

I don't know how to convince these younger voters that being part of a party can matter and to take the long view.    But if it doesn't happen these younger voters become the older voters that we see on tv every 4 years during the Prez election debates.   You know the ones, after months of campaigning, after 3 debates you get the housewife and her egghead husband sitting on the couch telling the interviewer, "we still don't know enough, we haven't made up our minds yet, I think I'd like to have a beer with candidate x, but candidate y looks better in a suit."

by RichardFlatts 2009-11-05 04:50AM | 0 recs
Liberals need the youth more?

Maybe I am wrong when I said above that Obama and the Democrats need to figure out how to turn on the youth vote.   Maybe Obama and the Democrats will simply move right and and go after a larger slice of indys and try to scoop up the moderate Republicans being purged daily from the Republican ranks.  

Maybe they decide to forget the liberals, let the fringe 2 or 3% go vote for Nader, scoop up the rest with no where to go who don't want to throw away their vote.

If liberals can't show that they can get voters to the polls that is probably what will happen.

by RichardFlatts 2009-11-05 04:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

I would put it in a simple "reframing" as to why? the Dems did not do well in Va and NJ!

The candidates were awful.  Corzine was in trouble long ago, he should have decided to withdraw and let another Dem run.
In Va, Deeds was the least desireable candidate in the primary...Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe would have been better than Deeds, however, Deeds won by default-this is what happens when you have 3 primary candidates, the best two eat each other and the worst one wins!  And Deeds distanced himself from Health reform, and more importantly from Obama.  Its a wonder he did not loose by more!

However, in the big picture, due to the dysfunctional Repugs. we gained two new house members.  Every little vote helps.  I think these two new Govs. will wonder why they wanted the jobs.  

By the way, where is our new DNC leader?  Tim Kaine is all by invisable.  Howard Dean ran the DNC so much better, however, since Rahm E. is a vendetta guy, they throw out the baby with the bathwater.  

Rahm is a BIG PROBLEM!

by lja 2009-11-05 05:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Our Unexcited Youth

The independent vote "swinging" Republican is misleading, I suspect.

Wish Nate Silver were here but I'd bet that the Republican-leaning independents voted, more of the Democratic leaning-independents stayed home.

Some will cry "heresy!" but I think a major part of the problem is Obama.   HCR is a great example of where he's been very passive in letting the legislation evolve and had a fetish about futile pursuit of bi-partisanship when he's not.

I understand his logic of not doing the WH-directed Clinton approach to health care and point taken; however, in terms of involvement, I think he's over-corrected in the other direction.

Underlying everything is what I always disregarded as the most appalling premise of the Obama campaign:  that he could change how Washington works.   Well, no he can't, but I think his pursuit of Olympia Snowe and Chuck Grassley are last-ditch efforts to try to prove the theory right.

Sigh.  I vastly prefer Obama to McCain, at least not so much negative crap is being inflicted upon us.   But I wish he was achieving more with the legislative majorities he has.   When does anyone think it will ever get much better than this?

by InigoMontoya 2009-11-05 07:08AM | 0 recs

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