Young Voters Were No-Shows in Massachusetts

One of the heartening aspects of the 2008 election was that 18-to-29-year-old Americans tied the 1972 record turn-out for their age group. An estimated 23 million voters under 30 voted, and two-thirds cast ballots for Barack Obama. That result led a few amateur observers to the rash conclusion that the nation was headed into some invincible Democratic Party juggernaut for a generation or two because those energized voters would continue to choose Democrats.

In Massachusetts Tuesday, young people flattened that idea, according to a survey by Rasmussen Reports for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. It's not that they gave Republican Scott Brown the majority of their votes. They didn't. Those who voted preferred Martha Coakley by nearly 3:2. Nothing like the 4:1 margin they gave Obama in 2008, but still respectable.

In '08, however, 47.8% of the under-30s voted in Massachusetts, compared with 81% of the 30-and-over population. On Tuesday, only 15% of young voters cast ballots, compared with 57% of the 30-and-over population. The Massachusetts vote isn't the first sign of dwindling interest by youth. Last year, 17% of young voters showed up for the Virginia governor's contest, 19% for New Jersey's.

It's unknown how much of this fall-off in Massachusetts can be attributed to a get-out-the-vote effort that ignored young voters, according to some people with inside knowledge of the poorly organized Coakley campaign. If that was the campaign's approach, it obviously was yet another misstep by the organizers.


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