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Michael Hais and Morley Winograd

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It's All in the Numbers

Posted: 09/05/2012 1:38 pm

While it is still far too early to forecast exactly the percentage of millennials who will vote this November, there is plenty of data to suggest that this year young people express less interest and enthusiasm in voting than their elders. For example, an August survey conducted by communication research and consultation firm Frank N. Magid Associates indicates that 56% of millennials, as compared with 72% of older generations, say that it is "very important" to them which candidate is elected president in November. But this does not mean that the "millennial vote" will be any less decisive in 2012 than it was in 2008. In fact, it may be even more crucial this time around.

It's all in the numbers. There are about 95 million American millennials. In 2008, about 41 percent, or roughly 39 million, of them were adults and eligible to vote. This year, 61 percent have reached voting age and, as a result, almost 58 million (or about 19 million more than in 2008) are eligible to vote.

In 2008, 52 percent of millennials voted for president nationally, the highest youth turnout percentage in at least four decades. That means that about 20 million millennials voted for president four years ago. While it's still too early to forecast exactly what millennial turnout will be this fall, even if we assume that only 50 percent of millennials actually vote in 2012 (slightly less than in 2008), this means that nearly 29 million millennials, 9 million more than in 2008, will cast ballots this year. In other words, the total number of millennials voting in 2012 will likely be about 45 percent greater than in 2008.

One thing that is very much the same in 2012 as it was in 2008 is millennial support for Barack Obama. In 2008, millennials voted by a greater than 2:1 margin for Obama over John McCain (66 percent to 32 percent). Millennials accounted for about 70 percent of Obama's 9.5 million national popular vote margin against McCain.

Almost all polling indicates that the margin by which millennials prefer the president over his GOP opponent has changed little, if at all, since 2008. If we assume that Obama will maintain about a 2:1 advantage over Mitt Romney among millennials, this means that young voters will give the president a margin that approaches 10 million votes nationally (or about 3 million more than in 2008). That is one of the biggest reasons why President Barack Obama remains the odds on favorite to be reelected on November 6.

 

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