Young voters turned out to vote in higher numbers and favored Democrats by a wide margin, according to exit polls, providing a major boost to Democratic candidates in yesterday’s House and Senate elections. The 2006 turnout increase follows on the unprecedented 2004 youth turnout and provides further evidence that the new generation coming of age today is more engaged than young voters in recent decades.

Exit polls on CNN’s website confirm that young voters increased their share of the electorate substantially from 2002. In 2002, 18-29s comprised 11% of all votes cast; in yesterday’s 2006 election, 18-29s cast 13% of the votes. This is a significant result, considering that young people are actually a smaller share of the electorate in 2006 than they were in 2002, and also that turnout overall in the 2006 election appears to be up from 2002. The data shows that the increase in voter turnout for 18-29 year olds in 2006 significantly outpaced the overall population turnout increase.

The 2006 results continue the positive trend from 2004, when young voters also outpaced the turnout increase in the presidential election. Turnout for 18-29s climbed more than 9 percentage points in 2004, with 4.6 million more young voters showing up than in 2000, according to the University of Maryland’s youth voter research institute, CIRCLE.

With a confirmed Democratic take-over of the House and the Senate hanging in the balance, young people also have demonstrated their political clout. CNN’s national exit polls show young voters favored Democrats by a 22-point margin, nearly three times the margin that Democrats earned among other age groups.

“Young voters increased their turnout and favored Democrats by large margins,” said Hans Riemer, Rock the Vote’s political director. “They played a major role in the Democratic victory.”

A sample of exit polling from close Senate races around the country shows that the youth vote was key to the Democratic victory.

US Senate  18-29 yrs  
   Democrat  Republican
Virginia  52%  48%
Rhode Island  65%  35%
Pennsylvania  68%  32%
Ohio  57%  43%
Missouri  49%  48%
Montana  56%  44%

Results from House races also show a strong impact for Democrats from the youth vote increase.

With Democrats depending on young voters for their election showing, Republicans will have a strong incentive to win the margin back for 2008. Historical data shows that when a person votes with one party for three consecutive elections, that person stays with the party for life. If Democrats should win the youth vote again in 2008 there could be serious long-term political consequences as the generation increases its voting turnout over time and becomes a larger share of the electorate.


Rock the Vote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to building political power for young people ( Founded in 1990, Rock the Vote helped spark a major increase in young voter turnout in 2004, registering 1.4 million young voters.