Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Why the Youth Vote is Important to Democrats // Plus, Join Maryland Juice & Media Figures in Rockville TONIGHT

UPDATE: Board of Education At-Large candidate Morris Panner has published an op-ed in the Chevy Chase Patch supporting Sen. Brian Frosh in his decision to squash youth voting rights on the school board. *cough*

Today, The Washington Post's political bloggers at The Fix provide a worthwhile dissection of America's youth vote. Political reporters Chris Cilizza and Aaron Blake today have an instructive article showing why young voters are central to President Barack Obama's re-election strategy. The POTUS is currently touring colleges around the nation, in an attempt to highlight his record on trying to make higher education affordable. But why would the President spend so much effort wooing a small and unreliable voting population? See one explanation below, along with a quick comment from Maryland Juice tying this issue to local races.

SIZE VS. COHESION: The old saying goes that strength comes in numbers. But in politics, it may be equally true that strength comes with cohesion. Indeed, parties often gain not just by large numbers of their voters turning out, but also by racking up huge vote gaps among defined populations. Maryland Juice recently noted, for example, that polling indicates women in swing Congressional districts are breaking disproportionately for Democrats, and this could severely hamper Republican candidates around the nation. But it is much easier to understand why women would be central to the Democratic Party strategy than smaller groups, given that women consistently comprise a majority of voter turnout.

The Fix explains (excerpt below):
...As the president travels to Colorado today to kick off a tour of college campuses to promote the extension of lower interest rates for student loans ... it’s worth re-examining what happened among young people in the 2008 election and whether he can re-create that magic in 2012.

The most common misconception about 2008 is that Obama grew the youth vote — defined for our purposes as those between 18 and 29 years old — by any significant measure as compared to past elections. He didn’t....

Young voters comprised 18 percent of the electorate in 2008, a one-point improvement from their share of the electorate in 2004, 2000 and 1996, but nowhere near the heights they reached in the 1980s.

What Obama did do — good grammar! — is win young voters by a far greater margin than any Democratic presidential nominee in modern times.

Again, we turn to a chart looking at the percentages the Democratic and Republican nominees won among 18-29-year-old voters:

Source: Washington Post, The Fix 4/24/12
Obama’s 34-point margin among young people was almost double the next best showing by a Democratic nominee; Bill Clinton won 18-29-year-old voters by 19 points in his sweeping 1996 reelection victory. 
The youth turnout then was far less consequential to Obama’s victory than the consolidation of the 18-29-year-old vote behind his candidacy....
Polling provides a muddled picture of whether Obama can hope to recreate that sort of margin. 
Obama’s favorable ratings among young people have fallen since 2009, but they have fallen less quickly and less precipitously than with other age groups.

DOWN-TICKET IMPACT: Notably, around the nation Congressional candidates of both parties are being held hostage to the dynamics of the Presidential race. After all, most voters this November will turnout to make a statement about the Obama-Romney battle, and downticket races will be afterthoughts to a large portion of voters. How Obama and Romney treat different groups (ie: women, youths, etc) can in some ways overshadow many elements of individual candidate messaging in the Congressional races. Last week Maryland Juice noted, for example, that in the key Congressional races where Democrats hope to pick-up GOP-held seats, Republicans are doing better among youth voters. See the poll snapshot below from Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, a firm launched by Bill Clinton's former pollster:

UNFORCED ERRORS: The youth vote, for example, is often taken for granted because it is assumed that not enough young people vote to make it worth pursuing their votes. Unlike women, youths comprise a much smaller portion of the electorate. But stopping your analysis there is a surefire way to miss electoral opportunities and longterm investments in future voters. Indeed, Maryland Juice believes that area Democrats often shoot themselves in the foot (for no reason) with key constituencies like young voters.

Recent unforced errors from Montgomery County Dems include proposing a youth curfew in the midst of a crime decline, along with squashing a bill to expand voting rights for MoCo's student school board member. Today, Maryland Reporter also notes that University of Maryland students are panicking over possible tuition hikes resulting from Senate President Mike Miller's hijacking of the state budget process.

Maryland Juice hopes that Democrats are beginning to get the picture here. You cannot take young people for granted, and I think it is a shame that I even have to write a post showing that this in our Party's electoral interest. In reality, the merits of youth-driven policymaking should be obvious for Democrats who care about policy. After all, young people are not wedded to the institutions and practices of the older generation. They are part of what keeps the Democratic policy circuit forward-thinking, and I truly believe this is a value for the nation (and progressives).

P.S. JOIN MARYLAND JUICE TONIGHT - Speaking of the youth vote, please come to the Montgomery County Young Democrats meeting in Rockville, Maryland tonight at 7:30 pm. All are welcome to attend a special panel discussion featuring Maryland Juice, Center Maryland's Josh Kurtz, and WTOP's Kate Ryan. Former CNN producer Evan Glass will moderate.

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