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

Background: Young Voters in Alabama and Mississippi

March 13th, 2012
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On Tuesday there will be Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi. Below we’ve summarized information on young voters in those two states. In primaries in the South and Southeast so far in 2012, several different candidates have won the largest percentage of young primary voters. Ron Paul won 31% of young primary voters in South Carolina; Mitt Romney, 41% in Florida; Newt Gingrich, 31% in Georgia; and Rick Santorum, 43% on Tennessee. An overview of youth participation in the GOP primaries can be found here.


An estimated 434,000 18-to-29 year-olds in Mississippi are eligible to vote in 2012. As in many other states, an increasing percentage of young people have been turning out to vote in Mississippi. In 2008, youth voter turnout was 56.80%, in 2004 it was 51.89%, and in 1996 it was 38.03%. In the 2008 general election, John McCain won 56.17% of all votes in the state, but 56% of Mississippi young voters chose Obama. 81% of young White voters chose McCain, while 99% of young Black voters chose Obama.

Overall youth turnout for the 2008 Republican and Democratic primaries (combined) was 14%, a significant increase from 4% in 2004. 70,673 youth voted in the 2008 Mississippi primaries, 57,161 in the Democratic primary and 13,512 in the Republican primary. Barack Obama took 73% of the youth vote in the Democratic primary. There are no estimates for the breakdown of the youth vote in the Republican primary; however, John McCain won the Republican primary with 78.91% of all votes.

See more historical data on CIRCLE’s Mississippi page here.


An estimated 754,000 18-to-29 year-olds are eligible to vote in Alabama in 2012.  General election youth voter turnout has been increasing since 1996. In 2008, 55.1% of youth turned out to vote, a significant increase from 47.2% in 2004 and 37.26% in 1996. Alabama is known as a conservative stronghold and John McCain won the state in the 2008 National Election with 60.4% of all votes.

In the 2008 Democratic and Republican primaries, an estimated 135,000 youth voted, producing a turnout of about 19%. President Barack Obama won 64% of the Democratic youth vote. Of the 67,000 young people who voted in the Republican primary in 2008, an estimated 15,000 voted for John McCain, giving him third place in the youth vote. Mike Huckabee, who won the general and youth vote, took 34,500 youth votes, followed by Mitt Romney with 16,000.

Values and religion were key to Alabama’s youth in the 2008 Republican primary. An estimated 85% considered abortion illegal in most or all cases, 60% attended church at least once a week, and 78% were born-again or evangelical Christians. Furthermore, 82% cared that their candidate shared the same religious beliefs and 60% voted for their candidate because they shared the same values.

2008 Alabama Republican Primary Overall Vote Choice:

  • 41% Huckabee
  • 37% McCain
  • 18% Romney

2008 Alabama Republican Primary Youth Vote Choice:

  • 51% Huckabee
  • 24% Romney
  • 22% McCain

Other statistics about young voters in Alabama’s 2008 Republican primary are very similar to South Carolina’s in 2008 (and here’s what happened with youth in 2012 in SC):

  • 54% of youth who voted in the 2008 Republican primary were male.
  • 23% of youth voters identified themselves as moderate and 69% conservative, similar to South Carolina’s 25% and 65%, respectively.
  • 17% of youth voters had a high school diploma or less
  • 46% of Republican youth in the 2008 Republican primary felt illegal immigrants should be deported, close to South Carolina’s 49%.
  • 83% approved of the Iraq War

See more historical data on CIRCLE’s Alabama page here.

CIRCLE will provide a youth voter turnout estimate for the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Wednesday, March 14th.

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