CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
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Preliminary CIRCLE Projection: Youth Voter Turnout Up

About 22-24 Million Young Americans Go to the Polls:
Up by at Least 2.2 Million from 2004

Young voters favor Obama over McCain 66% to 32%; 18% of all voters were young

Conference Call-in Press Briefing to Discuss 2008 Youth Vote, 2 PM ET, Nov. 5
The dial-in number for the call is 877-844-6052 (no access code needed)

Medford/Somerville, MA - Preliminary CIRCLE projections show the turnout for young Americans (ages 18-29) is higher than in 2004, a year of significant increase, and is much higher than it was in 2000 and 1996.

CIRCLE estimates youth voting after elections based on several variables, including the total number of ballots counted. Currently, the actual turnout estimate is unclear because of precincts that have not reported and the significant number of Americans who voted absentee; these votes will not be fully counted for some time, affecting the total number of ballots counted.  At 12 pm on Nov 5th, about 120 million votes had been counted, but many states are far from reporting 100% of precincts. CIRCLE’s preliminary estimates are based on a range of possible vote counts, from a 120 million to 133 million.

An estimated 21.6 million-23.9 million young Americans voted in Tuesday’s presidential election, an increase of at least 2.2 million compared with 2004, according to national exit polls, demographic data, and projections of total numbers of votes cast. CIRCLE projects the youth voter turnout will be between 49.3% and 54.5%, an increase of 1 to 6 percentage points over CIRCLE’s estimate based on the 2004 exit polls.  The 2004 election was a strong one for youth turnout, reversing a long history of decline. If we compare 2008 with 2000, the increase in youth turnout is between 8 and 13 percentage points. CIRCLE will replace projections with actual vote counts once most precincts have reported, including absentee ballots. Depending on the final vote tally, this year’s youth turnout could be the second highest since 1972 (55.4%).

“From a nonpartisan perspective, it is heartening to see young people so motivated and engaged in a national election,” said CIRCLE director Peter Levine. “Young Americans are also involved in community service at record rates. We must build on the momentum from this election to find ways to keep them civically engaged. It is also critical that those who did not vote for Barack Obama, or who did not vote at all, will feel included in politics, government and community affairs.”

Young voters favored the winner of this election by more than a two-to-one margin, forming a major part of the winning coalition. Overall, voters chose Obama over McCain by a much narrower margin of about 52% to 46%. This gap in presidential choice by age is unprecedented. The average gap from 1976 through 2004 was only 1.8 percentage points, as young voters basically supported the same candidate as older voters in most elections.

“Turnout” means the percentage of eligible citizens who voted, and youth voter turnout is the percentage of eligible 18-29 year olds who voted. CIRCLE’s final estimate will be based on the National Exit Polls conducted by Edison/Mitofsky, the number of ballots cast in the United States (aggregated from data provided by local election officials), and current Census data on the number of young citizens in the United States. CIRCLE has used precisely the same method to estimate youth turnout after previous elections since 1996. Using this consistent method, we estimate the following trend:

Year Youth turnout estimated by CIRCLE using exit poll data Percentage point change since previous election Number of young people who voted (based on national exit polls and day-after counts of ballots)
1996 37%   14.5 million
2000 41% +4 16.2 million
2004 48% +7 19.4 million
2008 To be announced later To be announced later To be announced later

There is no official count of voters by age. Therefore, any statistic on youth voter turnout is an estimate based on survey data. Like any survey, the National Exit Polls use methods that may introduce sampling bias. However, our estimates of youth turnout from the National Exit Polls (shown above) have produced a trend that closely tracks the trend in the Census Current Population Survey (CPS), which is the other reliable source for estimating youth turnout. CPS voting data for 2008 will not be available until spring 2009. Until then, our method produces the only reliable estimate of youth turnout.

55 Responses to “Preliminary CIRCLE Projection: Youth Voter Turnout Up”

  1. Policy of Truth » there’s something happening here Says:

    [...] conservative as they get older. If that was true, it rarely showed up in the presidential vote: CIRCLE notes that partisan gap between youth and other voters has averaged only 1.8 points since 1976. [...]

  2. Barack’s Youth Vote Energized by Social Media | SEMClubHouse - Key Relevance Blog Says:

    [...] year’s election. That’s just how energized and how active a part in the campaign the youth vote has became. The youth overall turned out in record numbers this year. Although the increase might [...]

  3. FairVote.blog » Blog Archive » Youth turnout up, decisive Says:

    [...] The think tank CIRCLE estimates that the percentage of youths turning out was up by as much as 6% over the 2004 fraction and 13% over 2000 [...]

  4. | MJJ's blog Says:

    [...] olds who voted. CIRCLE’s final estimate will be based on the National Exit Polls conducted by Read More|||High turnout, voter problems reported in New Jersey voter turnout voter turnout 2008. Heavy voter [...]

  5. | Zhang's Blog Says:

    [...] olds who voted. CIRCLE’s final estimate will be based on the National Exit Polls conducted by Read More|||High turnout, voter problems reported in New Jersey voter turnout voter turnout 2008. Heavy voter [...]

  6. Year of the Youth Vote « The Political Climate Says:

    [...] they were correct. Pollsters consider “youth voters” citizens between 18 and 29 years old. CIRCLE (from whom I got all these stats) estimates that youth voter turnout was between 49 and 55 percent [...]

  7. Youth turnout up, decisive | Providence Daily Dose Says:

    [...] The think tank CIRCLE estimates that the percentage of youths turning out was up by as much as 6% over the 2004 fraction and 13% over 2000 [...]

  8. The Fire of a New Generation Says:

    [...] explosion in electoral share, but this misses the point: In keeping with the trend of recent years, youth voter participation—the percentage of all young people who voted—is somewhere between 49.3 and 54.5 percent, an [...]

  9. The Numbers Guy : Breaking Down Voter-Turnout Numbers Says:

    [...] 1 and 1.5 percentage points in every presidential election between 1972 and 2000. In 2004 and this year, the turnout rate among young voters rose but continued to lag behind that of older voters. So the [...]

  10. Wall Street Journal » Blog Archive » Breaking Down Voter-Turnout Numbers Says:

    [...] 1 and 1.5 percentage points in every presidential election between 1972 and 2000. In 2004 and this year, the turnout rate among young voters rose but continued to lag behind that of older voters. So the [...]

  11. Presidential Race On Best Political Blogs » Blog Archive » Preliminary CIRCLE Projection: Youth Voter Turnout Up Says:

    [...] Preliminary CIRCLE Projection: Youth Voter Turnout Up An estimated 21.6 million-23.9 million young Americans voted in Tuesday’s presidential election, an increase of at least 2.2 million compared with 2004, according to national exit polls, demographic data, and projections of total … [...]

  12. Dowd, Friedman, Kristof and Rich « Marion in Savannah Says:

    [...] They never have before. By the time November comes, they’ll be tired.” In fact they turned up in larger numbers than in 2004, and their disproportionate Democratic margin made a serious difference, as did their hard work on [...]

  13. Lisa S. Says:

    While the youth voter turnout is important, it would be fascinating to see the numbers regarding first time voter turnout and their candidate choice.

  14. Wayne Says:

    I am glad the youth of America turned out and cast thier vote’s,But! it reminds me of a little scripture verse, forgive them Father for they know not what they have done.

  15. Alex Says:

    Yeah Wayne, they voted for a candidate who isn’t a geriatric fear/warmonger. What have they done? (sarcasm)

  16. What impact: Obama’s online campaign on youth voter turnount? « Hotwire Interactive Says:

    [...] conducts research on the civic and political engagement of Americans between the ages of 15 and 25. Preliminary CIRCLE projections show the turnout for young Americans (ages 18-29) is higher than in 2004, a year of significant [...]

  17. Youth vote in the 2008 Election | Rhode Island Suffrage Says:

    [...] Wondering how the youth vote turned out in 2008? The think tank CIRCLE estimates that the percentage of youths turning out was up by as much as 6% over the 2004 fraction and 13% over 2000 [...]

  18. Wayne Says:

    Sorry Alex, but I dfont fall into that sector of people, The youth of America acted like Obama was some kind of Rock star, and yes Obama won, but all that prove’s to me is most American’s just dont care who they put in as President, this man with all his radical baggage, and when we go into a depression,and our gas goe’s through the roof again, and when you work your job, college ect: and your check 55% goe’s to the fed’s and you still have your state , city, and whatever that other tax on most folks paycheck’s is taken off your hard earned money , I dont want to hear a single word from anyone that voted for this unqulified marxist idiot Obama, well I’ll be seeing you in the soup lines before long, and you can then tell me about how the youth voted away thier very future’s, Peace

  19. D Says:

    Wayne,

    We are already in a depression. The fact that gas will get more expensive is something that has been going on for longer than we think, to which the only solution is innovation and weaning ourselves off the stuff. And I will be glad to pay tax dollars for infrastructure and health care, as we get something in return for our money. What have we gotten in return for Bush’s trillion-dollar-plus war in Iraq?

  20. NOV 9 - Sunday morning « NLP Master’s Blog Says:

    [...] have before. By the time November comes, they’ll be tired.” In fact they turned up in larger numbers than in 2004, and their disproportionate Democratic margin made a serious difference, as did their hard work on [...]

  21. Interesting comment « Election 2008: UC Denver Political Science Says:

    [...] 1 and 1.5 percentage points in every presidential election between 1972 and 2000. In 2004 and this year, the turnout rate among young voters rose but continued to lag behind that of older voters. So the [...]

  22. Barack Obama And Grassroots Leadership | StayGoLinks Says:

    [...] of many viral activities.   Clearly Barack’s Youth Vote Was Energized by Social Media. According to CIRCLE, a nonpartisan research center studying youth engagement and civic education, without the youth [...]

  23. Eliezer Says:

    I had no doubts that the youth will preer Obama, and I think that this is not the question of the age, I mean that Obama is younger himself, but his politics is more radical, and that’s what exactly needed for hot young minds!

  24. Dontae Says:

    I’m not surprised that younger voted much more for Barak Obama that for McCain. Because Obama is not so conservative as McCain and the youth does not like consertism. Of course it is my own point of view.

  25. River Says:

    I share the two previous comments. You know, the youth is a category of people that loves everything exeptional, oppositional, extraordinary and what is more radical, so their choice is quite natural! There is nothing surprising about it…

  26. Kidney Stones Symptoms Says:

    It is good to know that young people voted more this time.

  27. Reiki Says:

    More came out to vote because of the new breed of candidate and it’s the first time in American history!

  28. drug alcohol news Says:

    I just wish all of them will vote. There are some cases wherein registered youths fail to vote for various reasons and they will have just wasted their chance to exercise their right to choose their leaders.

  29. brianS Says:

    It’s nice to see the youth vote back out on the streets

  30. Sober Living 12 Steps Says:

    The youth vote should be strong after all they are the ones fighting our wars.

  31. Fifth Wheels RVs Says:

    Youth are our future. President Obama has the support of our youth. They are driving this country to our next destination and hopefully we will get there.

  32. Energy Efficient Windows Replacement Says:

    Voter turnout by youth was high but some of Obama’s approval ratings have dropped because of energy and foreign policy changes.

  33. Bail Bonds Civic Center Says:

    It is nice to see youth taking initiative to fulfill their civic duties, that’s something to be proud of.

  34. Ca Homes For Sale Says:

    youth is the future of the new era, they are the new generation, and I’m so glad today they practice to participate into democratic exercises

  35. Jane Says:

    “Because Obama is not so conservative as McCain and the youth does not like conservationism.”

    Couldn’t agree more with this statement.

    “You do anything long enough to escape the habit of living
    until the escape becomes the habit.”
    ————————————————-

  36. motorcycle communications and accessories Says:

    As long as the youth knows what they voting for, is all good.

  37. Internet Marketing Workshops Says:

    I am glad the youth of America turned out and cast their vote’s,But! it reminds me of a little scripture verse, forgive them Father for they know not what they have done.

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  40. Small Storage Boxes Says:

    it’s quite good that more numbers of young Americans are participating in polls.Thanks for this detail information.

  41. Vacations in Israel Says:

    You know, the youth is a category of people that loves everything exeptional, oppositional, extraordinary and what is more radical, so their choice is quite natural! There is nothing surprising about it…

  42. California Summer Camp Says:

    In 2004 and this year, the turnout rate among young voters rose but continued to lag behind that of older voters.

  43. sell beats Says:

    I had no doubts that the youth will preer Obama, and I think that this is not the question of the age, I mean that Obama is younger himself, but his politics is more radical, and that’s what exactly needed for hot young minds!

  44. best weight loss pill Says:

    I am glad the youth of America turned out and cast thier vote’s,But! it reminds me of a little scripture verse, forgive them Father for they know not what they have done.

  45. indir Says:

    the turnout rate among young voters rose but continued to lag behind that of older voters…

  46. Toy army men Says:

    Thank you for this analysis because I’m student of sociological department and I need such surveys for my diploma. I think I can take this subject for the basis. Keep up your work.

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  48. Ginecomastia Says:

    In 2004 and this year, the turnout rate among young voters rose but continued to lag behind that of older voters.

  49. John Says:

    President Obama has the support of our youth. They are driving this country to our next destination and hopefully we will get there.

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  53. Online Activism and Civic Participation « Leading a double life in London Says:

    [...] This article summarises his online success with today’s youth, and also mentions university websites that are being used for civic participation and education. [...]

  54. Vanesa Salvador Says:

    It is nice that youth voters are increasing. There is a guarantee that the youth will be able to stand out and share all their concerns and opinions.

  55. What impact: Obama's online campaign on youth voter turnount? | Hotwire Blog Says:

    [...] conducts research on the civic and political engagement of Americans between the ages of 15 and 25. Preliminary CIRCLE projections show the turnout for young Americans (ages 18-29) is higher than in 2004, a year of significant [...]

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