With the 2004 presidential elections just weeks away, there are unprecedented efforts to turn out young voters and indications that they are paying closer attention to the campaigns than they have in years.
But who are these young voters? Whats different this election year? What do they care about? Whom are they supporting? What are the trends related to young voters?
The Pew Charitable Trust's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) has the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis to answer these questions and help tell the story of the young voter in 2004. State-by-state data and other information are available from CIRCLE and its Web site at www.civicyouth.org.
Who Are They?
"This is the largest potential youth voter population in 20 years. The youngest generation is more favorable toward government action and more socially tolerant than older generations." -- William A. Galston, Director of CIRCLE
There are approximately 41 million eligible 18-29 year old voters in 2004 making up one-fifth of the voting eligible population; this includes 28 million 18-25 year olds.
Since 2000, 14 million young people have turned 18 and are now eligible to vote.
Since 2000, more than 1.7 million young Latinos have become eligible to vote.
There are more eligible 18-25 year old voters in 2004 than in any presidential election since 1984.
Views on 2004 Candidates and the Issues
"Young people are evenly divided in their political inclinations. No party has a lock on their vote," said Galston.
A September poll shows young registered voters favor Kerry over Bush 46-40 percent, but there has been a lot of change throughout the campaign.
81 percent of young registered voters say they are paying attention to this years campaign compared to 63 percent in 2000. Of this group, 34 percent say they are paying a lot of attention compared to just 16 percent in 2000.
heyre evenly split with 34 percent identifying themselves as Democrats, 26 percent as Republicans, and 32 percent as Independents.
he most important issue for them is the economy/jobs, chosen by 35 percent, followed by terrorism and national security (22 percent), the war in Iraq (15 percent), and education (12 percent).
49 percent think we did the right thing in taking action against Iraq, while 45 percent believe we should have stayed out.
Recent History of Young Voters
"The decline in youth voter turnout is real and alarming," said Galston, but with interest levels up, and increased efforts being made to reach young voters, this year could reverse that trend."The voter turnout rate for 18-24 year olds has dropped by one-third since 1972. It has dropped by 12 percentage points for 18-29 year olds.
oter turnout among Latino citizens ages 18-24 trails that of Non-Hispanic White and African-American youth by more than one-third (30% versus 44% and 42% respectively).
In eight of 2004s 20 battleground states, 18-29 year olds favored a different candidate than older voters in 2000.