A lot of pundits are talking about “the youth vote” and how it is part of “the coalition” that is responsible for President Obama’s recent election. Their big question is whether “the youth vote” will remain part of the Democratic coalition, and whether or how it might be swayed to vote Republican in the future.

Young people are not a constituency in the same way that, say, White women are. So when you note that the “youth vote” for Obama was up 1% from four years ago, that means something significantly different than noting that White women voted for Obama 4% less than four years ago.

The “youth vote” in 2012 is actually a group of individuals who are constantly getting older. The easy mistake to make (and I’ve written more about it here) is to sample young people and think that we know what “young people” are like. What the Democrats have at the moment are the votes of 60% of voters who are currently 18-29 years old. That group has a turnover rate of about 1/3 per election cycle, a completely new group of people every four cycles. The current “youth vote” group who voted decisively for Obama will be with us for a much longer time–another 50+ years, as middle aged adults, then older adults.

If I were an election strategist, I would be thinking of the “youth vote” as very up for grabs, and worth paying a lot of attention to. If I were a Republican election strategist, I would be thinking about how to  gain the affections of the next “youth vote,” our current crop of high school kids.


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