This election at least 80 electoral votes were decided by young people. States including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia were won by voters under the age of 30. According to national exit polls, the share of votes cast by those under 30 increased from 18% in 2008 to 19% in 2012. If young people had not shown up, or not voted for President Obama in such great margins, Governor Romney would be our president.
Young people defied expectations this election, surprising everyone who lumped them in their age-old stereotypes of apathetic or uninformed. It is about time these stereotypes become a thing of a past. The Millennial generation made its mark on our country, again.
According to CIRCLE, 23 million, or 50% of, young people voted in this election. This rate of turnout can now be considered “the new normal” for young Americans. This is the third presidential election in a row with turnout around 50%.
Young Americans realize their vote can shape how important issues are handled. Those who make up the youth vote understand that they will have to live with the decisions our elected officials make longer than any other age group, and that they must inform themselves and engage in our political process in order to influence those decisions.
Millennials are huge in number, diverse, and compassionate. In order to win them over in the next election, Republicans must understand how the Millennial mindset works. A majority of them have grown up seeing their gay friends and family members hold hands with someone of the same sex; they believe climate change has something to do with Superstorm Sandy and the all-too common wildfires and tornados; and they know their history and believe we’re moving backwards when old men start making decisions on female reproductive health issues.
There are also plenty of young Americans who have not been won over by the Democrats. These young people are living at home with student-debt and without a job, and they want to see real change. Republicans could easily seize young people’s bleak economic outlooks and capture their support.
Both parties have their work cut out for them if they want to turn the Millennial generation into one that votes habitually for their party. With 19% of the electorate being voters under 30 and 12,000 young people turning 18 years old per day, there is no denying that this is an engaged, diverse and large group who will dictate the future of our country and which politicians are elected to take us there.
Smith is president of Rock the Vote.