A question about the youth vote

Shivaji Sondhi writes:

I had a question for you about the youth vote. What are its ethnic and red/blue composition? The reason I ask is that I was trying to integrate the apparently growing Democratic dominance in this segment with various other beliefs I have seen expressed, e.g

a) that red states have larger fertility (affordable family formation or whatever)

b) that families have an impact on the political beliefs of children (more than educators, as educators insist – at least at the college level, I haven’t really seen a discussion of school teachers) which would then provide a mechanism for (a) to affect voting share to the right of the spectrum

c) that the minorities form a growing share of the young which would tilt the playing field to the left.

My reply:

1. I don’t yet have raw survey data. The exit polls on the web do break down the vote by age and race. Among blacks, Obama won about the same among all age groups. Among Hispanics, Obama did 8% better among the young than the old, and among whites, Obama did 14% better among the young than the old.

But . . . if you believe the exit polls (which I don’t, completely), there was an interaction between age and race: many more of the young voters were ethnic minorities. Among blacks and Hispanics, there were three times as many under-30’s as over-65’s. (By comparison, among whites, there were more old voters than young voters.)

So the age effect partly arose from lots of young ethnic minorities coming out to vote.

2. People do tend to vote like their parents–children of Republicans are, on average, more likely to vote Republican–but cohort effects go on top of this. The recent economy and George W. Bush’s approval ratings aren’t likely to make the Republican Party popular with young people–especially those who are ethnic minorities. Any differences in birth rates between states are small compared to these big political swings, which are not just about Obama; see this graph from 2006:


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