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Dr. Margaret Groarke, Manhattan College – Youth Voting Patterns

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. Margaret Groarke of Manhattan College examines the trend of high voter turnout among youthful voters.

Margaret Groarke is an associate professor of government at Manhattan College in Riverdale, New York.  Her research is focused on voter suppression activities, specifically the use of fraud claims and list purging to disenfranchise voters. She holds a Ph.D. from the City University of New York.

About Dr. Groarke

Margaret Groarke – Youth Voting Patterns

Historically, young people are less likely to vote than their elders. But during the past three elections, voters between the ages of 18 and 24 have increased their participation. Early data for 2012 shows the turnout of young voters held steady, while turnout overall fell, thereby increasing the youth share of the electorate.

Youth turnout is rising faster than that of the population as a whole. Overall, turnout has risen 5 points since 1996, according to the U.S. Census. But turnout among citizens aged 18-24 has jumped from 36 to 49 percent during the same elections – 13 points.

Census data is not yet available for the 2012 election, but the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement estimates that youth turnout was at least 49 percent, roughly the same as 2008.

Factors, such as, the ease of participation, mobilization and competitiveness have greater impact on young voters, who are still developing their voting habits. Thus, laws which have made it easier to vote, like the National Voter Registration Act, and the spread of early voting, have improved turnout overall, and youth turnout in particular.

Mobilization also matters, and both parties have done more to mobilize voters in the past few elections because these elections have been so competitive. In 2000, 2004 and 2012, the presidency was decided by less than 3 percent of the popular vote. A competitive election gives parties an incentive to mobilize and gives voters, particularly those not yet habitual voters, a reason to participate.


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