Drop in youth vote for Obama in 2012, study shows

Rachel Rose Hartman
The Ticket

Some 2.4 million young voters who supported Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential race did not vote for him in 2012, according to an analysis released Friday by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

CIRCLE used Census data released this week combined with exit poll data to produce estimates for young voter participation. It found that 14.8 million voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted for Obama in 2008, but just 12.3 million of those voters cast ballots for the president in 2012.

That meant that turnout for 18-29-year-olds overall was 51 percent in 2008 and dropped to 45 percent in 2012.

A drop was also seen among African-American youth when that demographic was singled out. The turnout rate was 53.7 percent in 2012—higher than the overall average for all youth voters, but 4.5 percent lower than historic 2008 turnout for young African-Americans.

Overall, Obama still captured the youth vote in 2012. He earned 60 percent support from young people nationally while 37 percent supported Republican Mitt Romney. (In 2008, that divide was larger, with Obama receiving 66 percent support from young voters versus 32 percent for Republican John McCain.)

The drop in Obama's appeal to the young demographic is unsurprising given that the president's overall support shrank. Obama received 3.7 million fewer votes in 2012 than he received in 2008.

The study also found that a gender gap has emerged among young voters in that women are more likely to vote than men. In 2012, the gender gap in the youth turnout was 7.1 percent. By comparison, the gender gap was 2.7 percent for voters over 30 in 2012.