Went to a panel on turning out young voters yesterday. I didn’t have high hopes for the session.
Turning out young/new/second time voters is one of those perennial election topics, where there’s a lot of handwringing and analysis on what motivates “them” to vote, and vague talk about “connecting”.
Every expert says the same thing. We have to keep them engaged in between elections working on issues, etc. I’ve never liked the whole approach because it’s always framed so passively: we have to do this for them. It’s like they’re all just sitting somewhere, frozen in time between elections, waiting for their elders to arrive and start barking out orders
Time passes. The first-time eligible voter of 2008 may be (essentially) a completly different person by 2012, with completely different priorities and concerns, because all kinds of things happen fast between age 18 and age 22, or between 22 and 26. Any young voter’s life is probably going to change more in any four year period than that of any middle aged voter. Hopefully, the new voters I chatted with in the community college student center in 2008 aren’t still there, wondering where I got off to.
Too, a first time eligible voter in 2012 was just entering high school in 2008. New voters in 2012 will be different people, with a different set of national/political experiences or exposure than those who were newly eligible voters in 2008.
That said, this panelist was actually interesting. I liked what this panelist had to say, so I’ll just have her say it:
Black voter turnout is key for the upcoming presidential election and Democratic candidates would be mistaken if they think it is in the bag for them simply because Blacks vote overwhelmingly Democratic during elections.They will have to work to encourage many in the disenchanted Black electorate to head out to the polls come November 2012. As a group, African Americans have fared worse during the recession, still struggle through double-digit unemployment and faced the brunt of the housing crash, suffering through a disproportionate amount of foreclosures. To say “the thrill is gone” would be an understatement. Some are starting to feel taken for granted by the Democratic party and will not likely vote Republican because there is a sense of hostility towards them from that party. What may likely happen is that would-be voters will simply sit out the 2012 elections.
It is true that during the 2008 presidential election, Black voter turnout was 65.2 percent — an all-time high — with about 15.9 million black Americans casting ballots, including an estimated 5 million first-time voters. That year, Blacks alone increased votes for the Democratic candidate by 3.2 million from the previous presidential election, according to the PEW Research Center. In the Democratic presidential candidates in 2000, 2004, and 2008 , Blacks voted 90 percent, 89 percent, and 95 percent of the time Democratic, respectively.
This upcoming year is indeed a critical one for courting the Black vote. Like other groups, Blacks turn out to vote in greater numbers during presidential races than during midterms. State and congressional Democratic candidates get the benefit from that bump and extra churn. Many assume that in 2008 it was the race of presidential candidate Barack Obama that was responsible for the record black turnout. Not so fast, says one analysis. Using data from the 1984 and 1996 National Black Election Studies and the 2008 American National Election Study, Public Opinion Quarterly published a report that found personal contact from a campaign worker or official contributed more to higher than normal black turnout in 2008, not the race of the presidential candidate alone.
5 million first-time voters in 2008.