Youth Turnout Up Sharply in 2004

Contact: Mona Miller, 202.207.2135, Michael Fleischer, 202.667.0901


Washington, D.C. - 11/03/2004 - At least 20.9 million Americans under the age of 30 voted in 2004, an increase of 4.6 million over 2000, 1 and the turnout rate among these voters rose from about 42.3 percent to 51.6 percent, a sharp rise of 9.3 percentage points, according to final national exit polls and an early tally of votes cast. Youth voter turnout was especially high in the contested battleground states.“This is phenomenal,” said CIRCLE Director William A. Galston . “It represents the highest youth turnout in more than a decade, 4 percentage points higher than the previous peak year of 1992.”

Because young people participated in considerably larger numbers than they had in the past, they kept pace with the higher turnout of Americans of all ages. Voters under the age of 30 constituted the same proportion of all voters as they did in 2000 (about 18 percent).

Young people voted at a much higher rate in contested, “battleground” states.2 In the ten most contested states, youth turnout was 64 percent, up 13 percentage points from 2000. In the battleground states, the youth share of the electorate was 19 percent. In the remaining 40 states and the District of Columbia , youth turnout was 47 percent and the youth share of the electorate was 18 percent. One explanation for the higher rates of participation in the battleground states is that there was greater voter outreach and political advertising in these states. Current research shows that youth participate when they are asked to do so.

Young people chose the Kerry-Edwards ticket over Bush-Cheney by 54-44, according to national exit polls. They were the only age group to prefer the Democrats.

Table 1 – Election 2004 Youth Voter Turnout

Presidential
Election Year

Percentage of All Voters who are Age 18-29 3 

Estimated Number of Votes Cast by Voters Age 18-29 4

Percentage of Citizens Age 18-29 who Voted (turnout)

    

2004

18.4%

20,996,000

51.6%

2000

16.8%

16,260,000

42.3%

1996

17.1%

14,452,000

34.9%

1992

20.7%

19,073,000

47.9%

Source: The percentages of voters age 18-29 are obtained from state exit polls. The numbers of votes cast are obtained from the Associated Press as of 6am the day following the election. Estimated voter turnout is obtained by taking the estimated number of votes cast and dividing it by the estimated population of 18-29 year old citizens from the Current Population Survey.

Table 2 – Youth Voter Turnout in Battleground and Non-Battle Ground States  

Battleground States

Non-Battleground States

 2004

Percentage of Voters Age 18-29

19.4%

18.1%

Voter Turnout Among 18-29 year olds

64.4%

47.6%

 2000

Percentage of Voters Age 18-29

17%

16%

Voter Turnout Among 18-29 year olds

51%

38%

Source: Battleground states include Florida , Iowa , New Hampshire , New Mexico , Nevada , Michigan , Minnesota , Ohio , Pennsylvania , and Wisconsin . The percentages of voters age 18-29 is obtained from state exit polls. Estimated voter turnout is obtained by taking the estimated number of votes cast and dividing it by the estimated population of 18-29 year old citizens from the Current Population Survey.

Table 3 – Support for Presidential Candidates Among Voters Age 18-29  

National Results

2004

George Bush

44%

John Kerry

54%

Ralph Nader

1%

2000

George Bush

46.2%

Al Gore

47.6%

Ralph Nader

4.7%

1996

Bill Clinton

52.8%

Robert Dole

34.4%

Ross Perot

10.4%

1992

Bill Clinton

43.5%

George Bush Sr.

34.3%

Ross Perot

22.2%

Source: National Exit Polls from 1992 to 2004.


Footnotes

1.) Results for 2004 are calculated using the National Election Pool exit polls (conducted by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International) and a preliminary tally of votes cast, as reported by the Associated Press at 6 am on November 3. CIRCLE’s national turnout estimates and estimates of the youth share of the electorate are calculated by aggregating the 51 exit polls and vote tallies for the states and the District of Columbia. The same methodology is used to calculate figures for 2000. One caution in interpreting these estimates is that exit polls do not always adequately represent the proportion of voters by age. As a result, youth turnout and the numbers of votes cast by young people are estimates for all election years.

2.) In 2004, we define the “battleground” as those in which the margin of victory was 5 percentage points or less, according to exit polls. These states are Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

3.) For consistency, all figures in this column are derived from national exit polls. Other CIRCLE documents use Census Current Population Survey data instead of exit polls. However, the Census Bureau’s election data for 2004 will not be released until 2005, so this fact sheet uses exit polls as a provisional source that allows comparisons to past years.

4.) This number will likely increase over the next days and weeks. In 2000, the vote tally on the day after the Election rose by 8 million over the subsequent weeks. As the vote tally rises, youth turnout may rise somewhat.

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