President Barack Obama has the youth to thank for being granted a second term in office.
According to data turnout and analysis released by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement from Tufts University and Rock the Vote, Obama won 60 percent of the youth vote compared to Republican challenger Mitt Romney’s 37 percent, nationwide.
The “youth vote” encompasses voters from age 18 to 29.
Peter Levine, the director of CIRCLE, said during a teleconference Wednesday that Obama winning the youth vote was the turning point in the election.
Levine said if states, such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, were to have a majority of young voters vote for Romney, those states would have been red, instead of blue.
Youth turnout was strong, Levine said, but it only varied slightly from the 2008 election. Between 22 and 23 million young people casted their vote Tuesday. In 2008, 22.8 million young voters turned up at the polls, according to CIRCLE’s exit poll data.
President of Rock the Vote Heather Smith said this generation of young voters no longer has the apathy of past generations of young voters.
“The county has changed, becoming more diverse and engaged,” she said. “Young voters now realize that they can have a share of the electorate and can help to move the country forward.”
Smith said young voters have an understanding of their obligation while casting their vote. With this election, Smith said Rock the Vote hopes to help to solve the problem of voting issues to better suit the needs of today’s voters, such as an upgraded voting system.
Smith said she heard stories of too many people standing in line to vote that were turned away and paper-based ballots that were confusing to voters.
Both Levine and Smith agreed that the most important issue for young voters — based on the results their analysis — was the economy, college affordability, student loans and health care.
In October, young voters polled said Obama was better for the economy, but overall not every young voter was totally sold when it came to either candidate’s platforms, Levine said.
“Young voters are unique in a way that they care about very serious issues but can also take them day-to-day,” Smith said.
For finding solutions to help expand the youth vote, Smith said this election was different than 2008 because campaigns then were able to fully engage people.
In 2008, an involved primary process helped young voters to stay engaged with the election. This year, Smith said, many young voters were left out of the primaries, did not pay attention in the summer and had to start from the ground up in the fall.
Adriana Acosta, PSU Votes communications leader, said she felt there wasn’t enough time to get the vote out around campus.
“PSU Votes got a late start and did not have enough resources to reach out for a long time,” Acosta (senior-public relations and political science) said. “Only in the past few weeks, leading up to the election, people were excited.”
Senior undergraduate studies adviser and member of PSU Votes Laura Brown said that increased pressure on students is the reason for the lower voter turnout on Penn State’s campus.
“There is an overload of media and negative ads to make student voters overwhelmed with information and underwhelmed with the information to support candidates,” she said.
More than 17 million people turned 18 years old in the time between the 2008 and 2012 elections, Smith said. This helped out-of-state college students to register with their college addresses, Smith said.
“It gives power of participation to have a choice where they could decide for themselves,” she said.
When more than 30 states proposed a new voter ID law, which wouldn’t allow for some student IDs to work at polls, each of the states, except for Tennessee, passed laws to stop or postpone an action on voter ID laws until after the election, including Pennsylvania, Smith said.
She said there were reports coming from different college campuses across the country of student poll watchers that were at polls looking out for issues and helping out students if there were any problems with the voter ID criteria.
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