Youth Vote Overview, 2007-2008

YOUNG PEOPLE put another brick in democracy’s foundation this election cycle. An estimated two million more young Americans under the age of 30 cast a ballot than in 2004. This increase followed a primary season in which young voter turnout rates doubled in states across the country—even tripling in Iowa, Mississippi, Florida and Oklahoma, and quadrupling in Tennessee.

What explains the rise in turnout among young voters? 

Young people are more civically engaged and involved today than they have been in years, a factor that spilled over to the political arena. Technology provided new avenues for political expression among young voters. High-stakes and a polarized political climate created a heightened sense of political awareness. And the star power of the candidates added to the excitement. 

In turn, political campaigns focused more of their attention to young voters. They relied on many of the proven techniques of peer-to-peer young voter outreach pioneered by the non-partisan Student PIRGs and other grassroots voter mobilization efforts. 

The result was remarkable. Campuses across the country crackled with excitement around the election: Student leaders stormed dorms, invaded classrooms and hopped on their cell phones to make sure  friends registered to vote and showed up on Election Day. As a result, young voters on college campuses across the country lined up in big numbers.

This historic election confirmed two basic principles upon which the Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project has operated for 25 years: First, the best way to turn out the youth vote is for one young person to ask another young person to show up on Election Day. Second, and most importantly, when you pay attention to young people, they will pay attention to you.
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