WSJ: Voting in College Towns May Tell Midterm Story

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 09:30 AM

By Courtney Coren

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In 2012, President Barack Obama won 18- to 29-year-olds by 23 percentage points. Low voter turnout in that demographic in the midterm elections is expected to hurt Democrats in November.

When Obama won his first term in 2008, 18- to 29-year-olds made up 17 percent of all voters, according to data from the Census Current Population Survey, but in the 2010 midterms, that same voting bloc only comprised 11 percent of voters, falling 6 percentage points, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Two other groups that Democrats dominate — blacks and Hispanics — held steady from 2008 to 2010. Black voters fell from 12 percent to 11 percent, and Hispanics remained the same in both elections at 7 percent, as more Hispanics reached voting age.

According to the Journal, young voters staying home for midterm elections is a steady trend over the last 20 years. Since 1994, 18- to 29-year-olds have never made up more than 12 percent of total voters in midterm elections.

By comparison, that same voting bloc has reached 17 percent like it did in 2008, but it always falls back around 11 percent during the midterms.

The challenge with young voters is that they tend to move more than the average population, and are not as interested in midterms as presidential elections.

According to the Journal, the drop in voter turnout in college towns from presidential elections to midterm elections tells the story.

For example, in Boulder County, Colorado, home of the University of Colorado, 171,763 ballots were cast in 2008. By comparison, the total ballots cast in 2010 fell to 125,265 — a 27 percent slide. The percentage of voters in Larimer County, Colorado, home of Colorado State University, fell 26 percent.

Iowa's Story County and Johnson County, the homes of Iowa State and the University of Iowa, respectively, saw declines of about 30 percent in youth voter turnout, according to the Journal.

In North Carolina college towns, the drop was even greater. In Orange County, home of the University of North Carolina, voter turnout fell 38 percent from 2008 to 2010, and it plunged 40 percent in Durham County, home of Duke University.

Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina all represent states where the Senate races are expected to be competitive in November. Democrats are making an effort to get 18- to 29-year-olds to vote in the midterms in 2014, but the trend among this voting bloc is consistent, the Journal said.

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