The Youth Vote

The Millenials are with us. America's youth -- the biggest generation since the Baby Boom -- are voting more frequently than Generation X and are voting far more progressively than the Reagan-raised generation that proceeded them. You have probably already heard one of the most impressive stats: young voters went for Democrats by a margin of 60%-38% according to exit polls and 2 million more turned out to the polls than in 2002 -- the last mid-term election.

The relatively strong turnout and partisan bent indicates that 2004 -- which saw an 11 percent surge in youth turnout and a heavy youth vote for Kerry -- was no fluke. Interest in voting is climbing and the next generation heavily favors Democrats and progressives.

Exit polls also indicate that it is young voters who are responsible for the "blue-ing" of the Rocky Mountain West. In Montana, where U.S. Senator-elect Jon Tester eked out a victory by less than 1%, young voters broke in his favor by 12% -- his strongest performance among any demographic. And the youth vote made up 17% of the electorate, compared to 13% nationwide. Young Montanans were also the strongest supporters of the state's minimum wage initiative.

Wyoming shows similar numbers. Despite being a deep red state, Wyoming nearly sent a Democrat to Congress in a race that no one expected to be competitive. But if young voters had ruled the day, Gary Trauner, who ended up losing by about 1%, would be the next Congressman from the Cowboy state -- young voters went for him by 58%-42%. They were also the strongest age group for incumbent Democratic Governor Dave Freudenthal.

The story continues up-and-down the West, at least where exit polls are available. In Arizona, youth were the only age group to break for unsuccessful Democratic Senate candidate Jim Pederson -- and they broke for him by 15%. In New Mexico, Democratic Governor Bill Richardson saw his strongest re-elect numbers come from young voters. Exit polls are not available in Colorado or Idaho, but anecdotal evidence indicates that the story is the same: young Westerners are repainting their states from red to purple and from purple to blue.

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