Younger Voters Were Racially Diverse, Voted Democratic, and Approved of President Obama
Mostly a Subset of the 2008 Electorate, they Held Mixed Views of What to Do About the Economy
New Exit Poll Analysis Released today by the Generational Alliance and CIRCLE
Tisch College of Citizenship, Tufts University — Today, CIRCLE and the Generational Alliance (GA) release new analysis of exit poll data. The complete research findings, compiled from the National Exit Poll conducted by Edison Research, can be found in a new CIRCLE fact sheet, Young Voters in the 2010 Election (PDF).
An estimated 20.9 percent of all eligible young people ages 18-29 voted in the 2010 midterms. Younger voters chose Democratic House candidates over Republican House candidates by a margin of 57%-40%. By a 60%-40% margin, younger voters approved of Barack Obama’s handling of his job as president. By a 55%-41% margin, they said that his policies will help the country in the long run. In contrast, a 54%-45% majority of all voters disapproved of the president and a 52%-44% majority of all voters said his policies will hurt the country.
“Since 2004, young voters have been one of the strongest Democratic constituencies,” said CIRCLE director Peter Levine. “Democrats need to engage them better than they did in 2010, and Republicans need to make inroads in a generation that continues to prefer Democrats.”
Most (84%) of young adults who voted in 2010 had also voted in 2008. The 2010 young electorate was mostly a subset of the 2008 electorate.
In U.S. elections, young adults who have never attended college (about half of the young population) are consistently much less likely to vote than their counterparts who have some college experience. In the 2010 midterms, it appears that the turnout rate of younger voters with college experience was at least twice as high.
In 2008, the strong turnout was driven by youth of color. Again in 2010, younger voters were more racially and ethnically diverse than the electorate as a whole. Among younger voters, 66% were White, 14% Black, 15% Hispanic, 3% Asian, and 2% “all others” (this last category includes Native Americans and those who choose to classify themselves in any of the other categories). In contrast, among voters 30 and older, 80% were white, 10% Black, 7% Hispanic, 1% Asian, and 2% “all other.” Seven percent of younger voters said they were gay, lesbian, or bisexual, compared to 4% of all voters.
Younger Blacks represented 14% of all younger voters, about the same as their proportion of the whole 18-29 population (14.4%). In 2008, they had represented 18% of younger voters and had the highest turnout rate of any racial/ethnic group of young Americans. This year, it appears that their turnout was about on par with younger voters as a whole.
Meanwhile, younger Hispanics represented 15% of younger voters, again close to the same as their proportion of the 18-29 population as a whole (14.2%). In past elections, the turnout of young Latinos had lagged behind other racial/ethnic groups, but the exit polls suggest that they may have narrowed or even erased the gap in 2010.
Youth of color and low-income youth are voting while dealing with institutional barriers such as disenfranchisement because of felony convictions at much higher rates. Other obstacles were evident at the polls, according to reports from members of the Generational Alliance this past November 3rd.
Young voters in the 2010 election varied greatly in their party and ideological identification. Among young Black and Hispanic voters, nearly three in ten self-identified as liberal democrats compared to 20% of their white counterparts. White youth, on the other hand, were most likely to self-identify as Independents/Something Else (31%) or Conservative Republicans (27%).
For much more information:
CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) conducts and promotes research on the civic and political engagement of Americans between the ages of 15 and 25. A part of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University, CIRCLE has received funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Carnegie Corporation of New York and several other foundations.
The Generational Alliance is a collaboration of 15 national youth organizations building collective power for underrepresented & low-income communities. We’re working together to make sure our communities are voting and engaged on the issues that are impacting our everyday lives before and after the election.