Winning Young Voters: Part II

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The Importance Of Young Voters

Rock The Vote


  • Young voters are a huge group: More than one-fifth of the electorate is between 18-29 years of age, a total of 44 million potential voters.
  • Young = New: In a close race, new, young voters can make the winning difference.
  • They’re Voting: Despite the long-standing conventional wisdom that young adults don’t vote, today’s 18-29 year olds are turning out in large and growing numbers.
  • It Works: Young adults can be registered and turned out in cost-effective ways that fit right into your campaign’s overall strategy. And young voters, like all voters, are attracted to candidates that reach out to them. They’ll vote in big numbers in 2008, it’s just a question of who will get their votes.


Today’s Voters: How Generation Influences Party(4)

(4) Original chart by Bill Marsh at the New York times and the Pew Research center for the People and the Press.


Partisan loyalty develops during the youth vote years: Reams of academic research show a young voters’ first presidential vote and party pick influence their party choice for decades.

Voting is a habit: The strongest predictor of whether a person will vote is whether or not they have voted before. Winning young voters the first time pays dividends for years to come. THE PARTY THAT WINS THE YOUTH VOTE TODAY IS ON TRACK TO DOMINATE ELECTIONS FOR DECADES TO COME.

Young Voters: A Political Powerhouse

In 2008, candidates who want to win in November must target young voters as part of their campaign strategies. “Winning Young Voters” tells you how to do that.

Young voters are playing an increasingly significant role in American elections. After decades of declining turnout, today’s young adults, the Millennial Generation, are emerging as a political powerhouse – voting in record numbers and playing a deciding role in close elections.

Numbering 44 million citizens in 2008, today’s 18-29 year olds are voting in growing numbers. turnout among 18-29 year olds increased by millions in both 2004 and 2006:

2004 Vs. 2000 Turnout of Young Voters – (Source: U.S. Census Bureau) 

2002 Vs. 2006 Turnout of Young Voters – (Source: U.S. Census Bureau) 

18-29 year old Primary turnout in 2008 (As of March 5th, Where Data Available)

In fact, in 2004, the number of 18-29 year old voters (20.1 million) rivaled the size of the much-coveted over-65 electorate (22.3 million). (U.S. census Bureau)

The 2008 primaries and caucuses solidified young voters’ power at the polls.

Eighteen to 29 year old voters doubled and tripled their turnout in virtually every primary and caucus of the 2008 cycle.1 Overall, young voter turnout increased 109% in states where comparisons are possible – more than double. (2)

Not only are young adults voting in record numbers, this group of voters is making the difference in elections around the country. In 2006, the youth vote was the winning margin in several congressional and Senate contests, including Montana, Virginia and Missouri; in 2008, young adults propelled the winners to victory on both sides of the aisle in many states, including Iowa, Georgia and California. (3)

In 2008, candidates who want to win will need to court young voters. Use this handbook as a tool to do just that. target young voters to win today and to build a powerful base for generations to come.

Working the Youth Vote Works – Case Studies

In recent elections, several campaigns have shown how targeting young voters can lead to electoral victory:(40)

Jon tester, U.S. Senate, Montana, 2006: The Tester campaign and Montana coordinated campaign ran a strong field effort that incorporated youth outreach. Volunteers did registration, persuasion and turnout with students by going door-to-door, tabling, sponsoring big events, and holding volunteer phone banks. In addition, the campaign utilized Facebook and MySpace to recruit for events and energize volunteers.


18-29 turnout 2002: 30,000 18-29 turnout 2006: 65,000 18-29 turnout increase: 35,000 Margin of victory: 3,562

Joe courtney, U.S. house, 2006: Joe Courtney won election to Connecticut’s second congressional district by 83 votes, and attributes that victory to increased youth turnout. During 2006, the campaign worked with existing groups to mobilize young volunteers and voters. the young campaign staff recruited and trained a bevy of volunteers to do door-todoor registration and GOTV on campus, events with Representative courtney, and direct mail and phone calls to non-college youth. Rep. courtney energized youth by engaging on relevant issues, from college costs to Iraq.

Charlie Crist, Florida Governor, 2006: With an open gubernatorial seat and a tight race, student voters got more attention this election in Florida than in other recent races. Governor crist reached out on issues relevant to young Floridians – affordable housing, higher education, and jobs – and used online networking via MySpace and Facebook.

James Webb, U.S. Senate, Virginia 2006: One of the closest races in 2006 was decided in part by a huge surge in young voter turnout. campus rallies, online outreach, and coordination with existing groups helped mobilize young voters for the Webb campaign in 2006. On MySpace, the campaign used viral marketing to build a list of 2,000 “friends” and turn supporters and volunteers out to events. Rallies at college campuses drew large crowds and helped build the Webb buzz among young voters.


18-29 turnout 2002: 174,000 18-29 turnout 2006: 302,000 18-29 turnout increase: 128,000 Margin of Victory: 9,329

Arnold Schwarzenegger, California Governor, 2006: the Schwarzenegger campaign, along with the state GOP’s largest field effort in years, recruited large numbers of young volunteers and mobilized young voters through the Governor’s statewide bus tour in the fall of 2006. College volunteer target=_blank>

(1) Rock the Vote and CIRCLE tabulations of CNN exit polls and reported vote totals by state.
(2) As of March 5, 2008. Figures are Rock the Vote tabulations of 2008 exit polls and CIRCLE tabulations of 2000 and 2004 vote totals.
(3) For 2006 case studies, see Young Voter Strategies’ Young Voter Mobilization tactics Volume II; for 2008 examples, see Rock the Vote’s post-Super Tuesday press release at
(40) 2006 case studies are excerpted from Young Voter Strategies’ “Young Voter Mobilization tactics II,” 2007.

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