Youth Vote Rivals Largest in American History

Update: The latest tallies show that approximately 23 million 18-29 year olds voted on Election Day 2008, the most young voters ever to cast a ballot in a presidential election and an increase of 3 million compared with 2004, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement(CIRCLE). Turnout among young voters was up from 2004 to 52-53%, the highest level since 1972, making 2008 the third major election in a row where young people have increased their turnout.  

Vote Total – All Ages (1)
133.3 million

Youth Vote Share of Electorate (2)

Voter Total – 18 -29 Year Olds
24 million

 (1) Calculation by Professor Michael McDonald of George Mason University,
 (2) National Election Pool exit poll, 2008

Across the country, young voters’ turnout made a significant impact on close races in battleground states. In Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and other states, young people propelled Barack Obama to victory.  Nationwide, 66% of 18-29 year olds voted for the President-Elect; state-by-state, this strong support made the difference in a number of contests.

Yesterday’s record turnout marks the third major election in a row with increased young voter turnout.  In 2004, the youth turnout rate was 49%, an increase of 9% points over the 2000 election; in 2006, young voters turnout went up by 3% points over 2002.  On November 4th, 18-29 year olds’ turnout rate increased by nearly 6% points over 2004 levels, resulting in 4 million more young voters than in 2004.

“Yesterday more young people voted than in any election since 18 year olds won the right to vote in 1972.  This is truly a remarkable moment; young people have spoken and elected the next president,” said Heather Smith, executive director, Rock the Vote.  “No longer can pundits and politicians say we don’t vote.  The face of our democracy is forever changed and young people have shown the world we are taking our country into our own hands.”

This year Rock the Vote ran the largest voter registration drive in history, using a combination of online, mobile and grassroots outreach resulting in more than 2.5 million individuals downloading a registration form.

After registering a record number of voters, Rock the Vote ran an extensive get-out-the-vote effort, using popular culture and new technology to reach young people nationwide and mobilizing volunteers in key states. Our efforts on Election Day included:

•    Sending more than 100,000 mobile subscribers an Election Day text message reminder;
•    Phone-banking 13,300 young voters to remind them to get to the polls;
•    Accompanying Ohio State University students to the polls;
•    Providing shuttles to the polls in Blacksburg, Virginia and several other schools;
•    Helping protect young people’s votes at Drexel University; and
•    Dispelling inaccurate attempts to disenfranchise young voters through online and mobile messaging.

On college campuses and in cities and communities across the country, Rock the Vote was on the ground yesterday supporting the 24 million young voters who cast a ballot yesterday.  Visit or more stories, videos and pictures from the field.

“We’ll now take this incredible energy and momentum and demand action on the issues young people care about such as the economy, the war in Iraq, heath care, voting rights, and the environment,” Smith commented.  “This is only the beginning.”