There’s good news, bad news, and interesting news about young voters.
According to Project Vote, 64% of the US population voted in the 2008 general election, an increase of 4% over 2000. While older white people continue to vote earliest and most often, nonwhites comprised 91% of the increase in voters. And while the number of young voters has increased 30% over each of the past two elections, about 21 million potential voters under the age of 30 didn’t vote in 2008. If they’d voted at the same rate as those 30 and over, 7 million more votes would have been cast. Meanwhile, female and minority voters are on the rise. While the percentage of voters under 30 increased, that of their elders did not; and non-whites still comprise the largest bloc of nonvoters. Young black women registered at a higher ratio than any other group. Fifty-two percent of young white women voted, a higher rate than anyone except young black women. The electorate is increasingly diverse, hooray. But there’s still long way to go in a nation where nearly a third of the citizenry doesn’t vote at all.
With all this action among young nonwhite female voters, “No wonder Republicans worry about a Democratic demographic storm,” writes Mark Ambinder in his Atlantic Politics blog.
Well, not so fast. The Daily Kos poll released on Friday asked: “In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?” The results are a wake-up call for Democrats still riding high on Obama optimism:
Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting
Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23
DEMOCRATIC VOTERS: 56/40
Democratic voters said they “definitely” would not vote at a rate three times that of Republicans and Independents.
Yet another poll suggests that Democrats need to pass health-insurance reform if they want to stay in power. According to a Public Policy Polling survey last week, a generic ballot had Democrats ahead of Republicans 46%-38%. Remove a health-care plan from that equation, however, and the numbers even up substantially, to 40-40. As analyst Nate Silver writes, Democrats “should probably not expect to gain ground if they pass health care — but they’re likely to lose more if they don’t.”
Maybe you can see where this is going. Young voters, who so far have been the biggest advocates of Democratic health-care reform, are being targeted by the anti-reform League of American Voters (not to be confused with the League of Women Voters, whose name they’ve appropriated) with forcedly cute ads imitating John Hodgman’s Apple commercials. According to GOP operative (and former Clinton adviser) Dick Morris, these ads have single-handedly caused a sharp swing against so-called “Obama care” in the three states (Arkansas, Maine, North Dakota) in which they’ve run. Expect to see more of them in the weeks ahead.