The Youth Vote 2004: With a Historical Look at Youth Voting Patterns, 1972-2004

  • July 01, 2005

Estimates from all sources suggest that voter turnout among young people in 2004 has surged to its highest level in a decade. This is a sharp break from recent years, and suggests that the confluence of extensive voter outreach efforts, a close election, and high levels of interest in the 2004 campaign all worked to drive voter turnout among young people to levels not seen since 1992. However, it remains to be seen if this increase is part of a new trend, or is instead a temporary spike in turnout similar to that observed in the 1992 election.

This report presents trends in voter participation among young people from multiple data sources and discusses the different methods that are used to generate these statistics. The report shows that there are several reasonable estimates of youth turnout for any particular year; no single number is authoritative. At the same time, the report shows that all reasonable methods yield the same overall story: youth turnout declined from 1972 to 2000, with the exception of a strong surge in 1992; and youth turnout sharply rose again in 2004.