Political Animal


November 26, 2012 5:02 PM Pew on the Youth Vote

By Ed Kilgore

Pew has a big analysis out on the under-30 vote in 2012, and while the basic numbers are well-known by now, there are some fascinating nuggets, including this one:

The last two presidential elections have had the widest gaps in voting between young and old of any election since 1972. This year, 60% of those under 30 backed Obama, compared with just 48% of those 30 and older; in 2008, the gap was 16 points (66% of under 30 supported Obama vs. 50% of those 30 and older).
This year’s 12-point difference between old and young this year was identical to the gap in 1972, when 46% of voters 18-29 supported George McGovern compared with just 34% of those 30 and older.

Wow. For those of us who remember 1972 as the year when “the youth vote” failed spectacularly to change U.S. politics, the comparison represents both a tonic and a cautionary tale. But of all the moving parts in the 2012 election, it’s clear the remarkable turnout among younger voters, which almost no one expected earlier in the cycle, was the biggest surprise and the real clincher for Obama.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • T2 on November 26, 2012 5:28 PM:

    one of the nuggets in this PEW study showed Obama dropping 10% among white voters under 30. Obama got 54% in 2008, only 44% this time. Romney got 51% of that demographic.

  • Ron Byers on November 26, 2012 5:28 PM:

    Early election day I saw lots and lots of young women at my ordinarily deep red suburban polling place. My wife told me they were probably teachers voting on their way to work, but at that moment I knew for sure Todd (Legitimate Rape)Akin was toast. My 23 year old daughter voted. She never votes.

    I don't know if it was the youth vote per se, but the young woman vote sunk Akin in Missouri by 12 points. My 92 year old mother in law also went out of her way to vote against Akin, but then again she is a young 92.

  • Peter C on November 26, 2012 6:02 PM:

    My 19 year old daughter was motivated. I'd say her main issues were rape, contraception and LGBT equality. She's got her head screwed on correctly and brought her friends to the polls (in Ohio!). I don't think any Republican will get the benefit of the doubt from her for a long time.

  • Hue and Cry on November 26, 2012 10:28 PM:

    Lots of young women in Pennsylvnaia got out the vote, paid attention, wanted their personal and private reproductive futures unchanged. Romney and his flip flops made them think he'd undo Roe V. Wade, Planned Parenthood, access to birth control, privacy, and have them raise the baby of a rapist while that rapist had parental rights. Thanks Akin, Ryan, Romney and Murdock for your obsessive chatter. It woke people up.
    Party of old white men, bitter and ruined.

  • MuddyLee on November 27, 2012 8:03 AM:

    Voting for 18 year olds was a new thing in 1972 - not as much media, no cable, no internet, no cell phones. It's a shame McGovern lost so big when he was so right on so many things (Eagleton drop was a mistake for which he later apologized). Imagine how different American history would have been if he had defeated Nixon. Thank God for the young women and for the minority voters in 2012. So many white male voters have gone crazy - thanks a lot Karl Rove, Roger Ailes, and Rupert Murdoch. You should be listening to Meghan McCain not John McCain. And try reading some Bruce Bartlett. And drop the Grahams: Lindsey and Franklin.

  • Barbara on November 27, 2012 10:37 AM:

    Mother of a 20 year old and a 17 year old: There is no doubt in my mind that the generation that is now somewhere between 10 and 30 is as different as people possibly can be from the generation that preceded them (31-50). The hatefulness towards "others" (especially LGBT) is seen by many for the naked authoritarianism that it really is. The ability to look behind the news and resort to a plethora of informal sources is also something that is absolutely new in its political repercussions.