Hey Jerome. I figured this deserved a fuller response than I might normally post in a comment, so I wrote about Gans' report over at Future Majority.
Would love your thoughts on what I wrote. FWIW - Gans has always been a bit of a crank about the youth vote. He's right about the primary/GE question, though I think he should have asked something far more specific like "if demographic A turns out in record numbers in a primary, does that trend continue into the general election?"
Wrt the Millennial generation, I found his rant to be particularly cranky and fact-free . . .
Hands down the MTV/MySpace Candidate Forums were the best forum in which I saw the public and media interact with the candidates.
The audience-generated questions, the live-action polling from the online and TV audience, and the "professional" moderation from Chris Cilliza and the MTV vjays outdid anything the cable and broadcast networks did this year.
This is a bit of a plug, but this is a book I wrote which was just published. It's a history of youth organizing in Democratic electoral politics (with a dose of comparisons to the conservative side), and it chronicles the rise of all these new youth orgs during the last 5 years.
If you want to find out what organizations are out there and who is doing good work, this is pretty much the only resource.
Additionally, when I'm not posting here at MyDD, I run a blog dedicated exclusively to covering youth organizing - Future Majority.
Down ticket is an interesting question, and hard to say.
My gut says that in most states they will go with Democrats. On all the issues, young voters are far more in line with the Democrats than the GOP, and their votes - even in Congressional, Gubernatorial and Senate races - is trending Democrat.
20% is just for South Carolina. I imagine that it is increasing across the board since 2004. The Millennials will eventually be bigger than the Baby Boom (once they are all of age), and Gen X was one of the smallest cohorts in decades.
So while I don't have figures, I'm guessing that in almost every state the number of young voters as a potential share of the electorate has increased since the last cycle.
That would be a good stat to have. I will ask the folks at CIRCLE to calculate it.
As for youth operations, I think you are right. Both Hillary and Edwards have had full-time youth directors for months now, if not a year, Edwards never had a critical mass of youth support to do anything with it, and Hillary always de-emphasised it until after Iowa.
Hillary has done a lot of high-profile youth stuff since that loss, but to me her outreach tends to ring hollow, and I have no idea if their field program is really trying to target youth or just paying it lip service in the media to attempt to cut into Obama's base a little bit.
It's definitely lower that I would have hoped. Young voters are 20% of the eligible electorate, so they underperformed by 6%.
It's also hard to put into perspective, because I don't have comparable figures for the other age demographics. It's possible that one or some of the 30 - 44, 45 - 64, or 65+ demographics underperformed. And it's highly likely that some of them overperformed.
There are also some mitigating factors that I think we're going to see play out on Super Tuesday as well. Studies show that young people vote in greater numbers when campaigns ask them. The "asking" is most effective when it takes the form of peer to peer outreach, but media attention, meeting the candidates, etc. also play a role. Young people in Nevada and South Carolina had far less attention from the campaigns than did young voters in Iowa and New Hampshire where we saw the biggest gains. So that accounts for some of the drop off, but probably not all of it.
The other factor is that South Carolina did not have election day registration. There were reports of thousands of young people signing up at the caucus and voting booth in Iowa and New Hampshire. South Carolina did not have election day registration, and all voters needed to be on the rolls by December 26th. So that might be a little more of the drop.
Young voters also get turned off very easily by negative campaigning, which we saw in spades over the last two weeks.
So I think some combination of those three things account for the drop off.
Super Tuesday has a mix of EDR and non-EDR states. And it will have states that receive more or less attention from the candidates. It will be very interesting to do compare/contrasts on February 6th.
I think the real story though is the climbing turnout in general. Participation in primaries is always lower and I think the gains we're seeing now will be magnified (to the Democrats' favor) during the general election.
I don't think they give a rat's ass about Reagan. If that were true, we'd see MORE youth supporting Hillary than they did in New Hampshire. That wasn't the case. If anything, Obama solidified his lead among youth after briefly losing the 25 - 29 year old vote to Clinton in New Hampshire.
Youth come out when you target them and speak to them. The candidates spent months courting younger voters in IA and NH. They spent about a week doing so in Nevada. Top that off with the fact that this caucus was a relatively new event in Nevada, school was out of session, many Nevada schools are commuter schools - making canvassing difficult - and the fact that an early caucus time made it difficult for young voters who work the night shift to participate and you've got a dramatic decrease in the number of youth turnout.
For what it is worth, while young voters made up a smaller share of the electorate this time around, youth turnout was still way up over 2004 levels (when only 9,000 voters total participated), and three times as many young people participated in the Democratic Caucus as did the GOP caucus.
Democrats are still maintaining a strong lead among young voters and Nevada could be a swing state in the general election.
I wasn't there, but for what it's worth, there were reports from the Young Voter PAC that Clinton folks tried to keep them out of the NY, NY caucus site, and that the Clinton folks were challenging everything.
To be clear, the YVP folks were credentialed as press and were only there to observe. They weren't participants.