CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

Turnout by Education, Race and Gender and Other 2008 Youth Voting Statistics

November 24th, 2008
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November 2008

Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service, Medford, MA – Now that the dust has settled from a record turnout of young voters, new research reveals young Americans voted for Obama across party and racial lines, but youth with no college experience were underrepresented at the polls, according to Tisch College’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

All the data are included in a new CIRCLE Fact Sheet.


An estimated 23 million young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 presidential election, 3.4 million more voters as compared to the 2004. CIRCLE estimated youth voter turnout rose to between 52 percent and 53 percent, an increase of four to five percentage points. Compared to 2000, the increase in youth turnout is at least 11 percentage points.

The 18-29 age voting bloc is more diverse than older voters—youth voters classified themselves as Hispanic/Latino, black, and gay, lesbian, or bisexual in much larger proportions than the electorate as a whole.

Unfortunately, young voter turnout remains skewed towards those with more formal education.  For instance, while just 57 percent of U.S. citizens under 30 have ever attended college, 70 percent of all young voters had gone to college. The same disproportion can be seen when looking at those without a high school diploma. While youth with no high school diploma make up 14 percent of the general youth population, only six percent of young voters in 2008 had no high school diploma.

One of the most striking characteristics of this election was young people’s united support for Barack Obama, regardless of their political affiliations. Thirty-three percent of young white voters self-identified as “Democrat,” and yet, 54 percent voted for the Democratic candidate.  Similar trends were seen with African Americans and Latinos, where a large number of youth self-identified as Republicans yet voted for Barack Obama, signifying youth support for Obama seemed to cross racial and partisan lines.

Young women voters also came out to the polls in larger numbers—55 percent of young voters were women, which was consistent with the overall trend (53 percent of all votes were cast by women). This trend, however, was especially strong for young Black voters, 61 percent of whom were women.

The economy was a top issue for young people, as it was for adults. Youth were more likely to oppose U.S. offshore oil drilling (39 percent versus 28 percent of all voters). More young people said a candidate’s race was a factor than the general voting population (24 percent versus 19 percent).  Almost half of young voters said they would be “excited” if Obama won, as compared to 30 percent of the overall electorate, and just 20 percent of voters over the age of 60.

120 Responses to “Turnout by Education, Race and Gender and Other 2008 Youth Voting Statistics”

  1. susana Says:

    Thanks lots this article. It is really a good topic. Its so-called interesting and attractive. I like it so much. very useful blog for me.

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    This is an awesome post. makes me think of the endless summer if you know what I mean.

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    I have found that if the youth are the future than education is the key to the future and it can not be more true. Awesome artice

  5. Inzercia zadarmo Says:

    great to know that more young people are voting. It is a very good improvement

  6. Geoff Says:

    Having more young people voting is always excellent news.

  7. Acai Says:

    This survey report helps to identify factor for that..

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    This is an awesome post. makes me think of the endless summer if you know what I mean.

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    Thanks for this information. We must try harder to reach young people with less formal education.

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  13. Attracting Generation Y to the Ballot Box – WomensRadio | Baby Boomer Generation Says:

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    […] the 2008 election, a little over 50% of us voted. That’s an estimated 23 million people, and it represents an 11% increase in young […]

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    The more young that vote the better, really good post like the statistics, hopefully large increase again

  16. sing a ma jig Says:

    It’s good to see that youngsters aren’t as jaded as one would expect, it’s all too easy in a democracy to sit back and expect others to vote with yours making no difference and I’m so glad that isnt the case for a lot of people.

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    With the idealistic minds of the youths, this is a good indication that they’re getting matured and have realized that the leaders they choose today can help mold the future of a nation in which they are going to live in. Fliesen verfugen Bodenversiegelung

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    I think that politics are starting to reach out to young people more than it ever has, although we do live in a democracy I think that youngsters in particular haven’t had the opportunity to discuss the political issues whereas now it plastered in the media a lot more than it used to be

  19. Mainbrick USA Says:

    It’s good to know that our youths are getting to be more active and involved in election exercises. That is a truly good sign. At least the idealistic minds of the youths can help choose the rightful leaders.

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    […] 2008, Generation Y voted at an impressive rate. On November 2, the country will go back to the polls to elect members to the U.S. House of […]