If 18-to-24-year-olds actually do what they say they’ll do on Tuesday, they could sway the results in close races and set a record turnout for young voters in a midterm election, a new national poll suggests.
The survey of 2,546 young people, all U.S. citizens, found that 32 percent “definitely” plan to vote this week. The previous record turnout for a midterm election was set in 1982 when 26.6 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds voted.
“What we’re seeing leading up to this election is continued engagement on the part of those young people,” says Jeanne Shaheen, director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, whose findings were released Nov. 1. “Since Sept. 11 and the 2004 elections, more of these young people say politics is relevant to their lives and there’s an increased likelihood we think they will in fact turn out.”
The institute has surveyed college students for six years, but this year doubled the number; half of those questioned in the same age group were not university students. The institute says this provides a more comprehensive look at the group some view as critical to election outcomes now and in 2008.
“Thirty-two percent would be quite remarkable,” says William Galston, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, a think tank. “If young people hit anything like that figure, then extra millions would show up, and given the number of close races, that could easily make a big difference.”
Among the other findings of the online survey:
“Almost three-quarters surveyed (72 percent) are registered to vote; 60 percent say they follow national politics closely; and 35 percent consider themselves to be politically engaged.
“Their political party identification includes 35 percent Democrats, 27 percent Republicans and 39 percent Independent.
“Of those surveyed, 73 percent were white, 11 percent Hispanic and 11 percent black.
“Thirty percent watch TV network news regularly, 14 percent read online major newspapers regularly, 14 percent read online columns or blogs and 7 percent read print newspapers regularly.