Youth Vote Falls By At Least 50% From 2008 Numbers

According to preliminary reports, the percentage of voters between 18-30 who voted yesterday was about half of what showed up in 2008:

Based on CBS News’ preliminary national exit polling, Republicans are poised for significant gains in Congress. The youth vote–18-to-29-year-olds–who helped catapult President Obama into office makes up an estimated 9 percent of voters this year, compared to 18 percent in 2008.

This would appear to be a reflection of the sense of abandonment among younger voters that I wrote about earlier this week. It is also yet another confirmation of the general belief among political professionals that young voters simply cannot be counted on to show up and vote unless there’s a “star” like Obama on the ballot.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, US Politics,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Monica says:

    As a “young voter”, I think it has less to do with having a “star” on the ballot than it does with feeling jaded and ignored.

    So many of the things that got us out to vote in the presidential election were the promises of something different. We voted because we wanted change so badly, and we believed an Obama presidency with a Democratic House and Senate Majority would help to do that. And so far, it hasn’t.

    *Gay marriages still aren’t recognized.
    *Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is still active.
    *Immigration is even MORE of a mess
    *Unemployment rates are STILL soaring
    *The national deficit is at a record high.
    (among other things)

    We were promised so many things. I am still an ardent Obama supporter. I understand that the President was handed a messy, MESSY situation and that REAL change takes time…but sometimes I can’t help but feel that I was slightly fooled.

  2. Courtney says:

    I agree with Monica I would also like to add a short blurb:
    I too am a “young voter”.
    It wasn’t Obama being a “star” that got us out to vote. Obama was someone for us to look to for a whole new look into government and politics. He was constantly sporting his sayings for “change” and what he could do for our country. I definitely still support Obama but I feel a bit fooled as well.
    Obama got us to the polls by specifically aiming to get young people out to vote for him something his opponents seemed to have somewhat overlooked. Obama was already talking to the people he knew would come out and vote because there is a percentage of people that always do, so to add to the number of voters he was speaking to he really focused on “the future” and did a lot of campaigning to college students. Which proved to really work in the end and got a lot of young people out to vote.
    Another difference with these elections is that the campaigning just seemed a lot dirtier I know I switched the channel when most of the campaigning commercials came on. They needed to speak about themselves not their opponents, get their ideas out into people’s heads, not what their opponent has done that might be mildly offensive.

  3. Courtney and Monica,

    I wrote about this issue the day before the election as well:

    I think the major point to keep in mind is that if you want to have influence in politics, you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to be involved. Politicians have usually ignored younger voters because, ever since the 26th Amendment was ratified in 1971 to much fanfare about getting 18 year olds involved in politics, the actual rate of participation by 18-29 year olds has steadily declined. Even in 2008, only 18% of that population of voters turned up at the polls.

    We probably disagree on many issues, but I’m as pissed off about politics as you are. I’ve learned that not being involved pretty much means that your voice isn’t going to be heard.

  4. An Interested Party says:

    “…but sometimes I can’t help but feel that I was slightly fooled.”

    Hmm, I wonder if many conservatives and Tea Party types will feel the same way in a few years…