“Ron Paul has the youth vote all wrapped up.” Or so the conventional wisdom would suggest. In reality, it’s a wide open battle for the small percentage of youth voting in the primaries so far. Let’s take a look at the numbers from the binding primaries and caucuses so far.
In Iowa, the conventional wisdom held true. Ron Paul took 48% of the 18-29 demographic. That said, just four percent of Iowa’s youth actually voted—about 19,000 people.
Turnout: 4 percent Youth Advantage: Paul Winner: Santorum
Historically, young voters in New Hampshire turn out far more than the average state. Compare Iowa’s four percent turnout with the 15 percent in New Hampshire in 2012 and you’ll see a 300 percent increase in turnout. Paul repeated his coup of the youth vote, attracting 46 percent of the 30,000 young voters.
Turnout: 15 percent Youth Advantage: Paul Winner: Mitt Romney
In the game-changing race in South Carolina, Paul again took the largest percentage of young voters, but Newt Gingrich came incredibly close. Paul won 31 percent of the youth to Gingrich’s 28 percent. Young voter turnout fell just between Iowa and New Hampshire at eight percent.
Turnout: 8 percent Youth Advantage: Paul, by a hair Winner: Newt Gingrich
Florida’s absurdly expensive primary drew just four percent of young voters to the polls. The ones that did show—just under 100,000—favored Mitt Romney for the first time over Ron Paul by a margin of 41-25 percent. Florida’s race marks the first time young voters accurately predicted the statewide winner.
Turnout: 4 percent Youth Advantage: Romney Winner: Romney
In Nevada, just one percent of the state’s youth turned out to vote. That’s just 2600 people. Ron Paul reversed his Florida decision with 41 percent of that miniscule portion of the youth population.
Turnout: 1 percent Youth Advantage: Paul Winner: Romney
In Michigan, Mitt Romney’s home state, youth voter turnout hit seven percent, but the longtime frontrunner pulled just 26 percent of the millennials. Ron Paul narrowly edged Rick Santorum for the lead among young voters 37-32 percent.
Turnout: 7 percent Youth Advantage: Paul Winner: Mitt Romney
In Arizona, things begin to change. Though only six percent of young Arizonans voted, Mitt Romney carried the day with the highest majority of young voters in any primary yet—52 percent. In what could be a sign of a fading candidacy, Paul collected just 18 percent of what is usually his strongest demographic.
Turnout: 6 percent Youth Advantage: Romney Winner: Romney
The Arizona primary also marks the first time Ron Paul has been overtaken by another candidate for the most youth votes cast in his favor. Mitt Romney pulled ahead of Paul by just 3000 overall votes.
*All statistics are from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement
John McAuliff is Director of Communications for Populus: The Political Social Network (Link:www.thepopulus.org), launching in Spring 2012 and writes as a USA Today Collegiate Correspondent.
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