CIRCLE reports 50−percent youth voter turnout
Published: Monday, November 19, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 19, 2012 08:11
In the recent 2012 presidential election, 50 percent of youth ages 18 to 29 turned out to vote, totalling 23 million young voters, according to data released by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).
CIRCLE, an organization based out of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, also reported that the youth turnout rate remained consistent with that of the 2008 election.
Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE, explained that in order to calculate this year’s young voter turnout, CIRCLE considered the proportion of voters who are considered young voters, provided by national polls; the total number of young Americans, provided by the Census Bureau; and the total number of votes cast, which comes from local election officials around the United States.
“I was surprised because 50 percent was also the rate in 2008, the year of the young voter. Yet signs pointed to lower turnout this year,” Levine told the Daily in an email.
Statistically, level of education had an impact on whether or not a young person headed to the polls, Levine said.
“Young people with some college experience, about 60 percent of all young people, voted at a rate of about 63 percent,” he said.
Levine added that the turnout for non−college educated youth was 36 percent.
“Working−class and poor youth are not participating and can still be ignored by the media, the parties and policymakers,” he said.
According to Levine, the young voter turnout has been relatively stable for the past three presidential elections, but up compared to 1996 and 2000 turnout statistics.
“Since that time, parties have begun to compete more for young voters and a new generation, the Millennials, has arrived,” he said. “Millennials are more engaged than Generation X−ers, as shown by their higher rates of community service as well.”
Junior Jacob Wessel, who heads Tufts Votes, said that he was also surprised by the turnout for this year’s election.
“Young voters are very much concerned about how policies will affect them and in what ways this country will go forward, and while there may be talk of youth disengagement in politics or in voting, I think young people really do care,” he said.
Wessel explained that one of the hurdles that young voters face is registering for the first time. As a result, Tufts Votes held voter registration drives in the weeks before the registration deadline, as well as an Election Day shuttle service to the nearby polling locations.
He believes that some facets of the voter registration system are outdated, including the lack of online registration in Massachusetts and the absence of an online method for checking registration in the state.
“We registered over 1,000 students, so I don’t know what would’ve happened without the voter registration drive,” Wessel said. “The shuttles were constantly used throughout the day, shuttling students to the polling places.”
Wessel recognized that the concerns of young voters vary across the political landscape.
“Of course, generally the economy was a big player in this election, and young people in general want to make sure that the job market is the best it can be as we all look for employment, so that was probably a big issue,” Wessel said.
Adriana Sclafani, a sophomore, highlighted the role of the youth vote in moving society forward and creating change.
“At first, I was on the fence about voting myself because I wasn’t sure where I stood politically, but I realized that not voting at all wasn’t a smart idea,” Sclafani said. “We have a chance to have our voices heard and actually influence our society, so voting should unquestionably be on every young American’s to−do list.”