Young voters, energized by engagement in the Democratic primary, came out in record numbers in Tuesday’s New York primary, according to a MA-based political think-tank.
In New York, the estimated youth turnout of about 14 percent was higher than the 12 percent reached in both 2008 and 2000, based on an analysis by vote experts from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tuft’s University.
“The New York primary results provide another example of young people’s interest in this presidential election, with record-setting participation among young Democrats,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of CIRCLE. “On the Republican side, any continued decrease in youth participation in state contests beyond today could raise questions about the enthusiasm of young Republicans who, overall, have been slower to coalesce around front-runner Donald Trump.”
According to CIRCLE’s analysis, the high-level of young voter participation was driven largely by the Democratic primary, where young people comprised a record-setting 18 percent of all voters.
And, while youth made up 10 percent of New York Republican primary voters, Republican youth participation did not set a state record.
Further, CIRCLE noted that just as in other states, young voters were more likely to support Senator Bernie Sanders (65 percent) than Secretary Hillary Clinton (35 percent) in New York.
CIRCLE reported that 81 percent of 18-24 year olds chose Senator Sanders, while only 53 percent of 25-29 year olds supported him, a more notable split between the two Democratic presidential candidates while Hillary Clinton won all other age groups.
Traci M. Levi, chair and associate professor of the Political Science Department and director of the Gender Studies Program at Adelphi University, offered an explanation as to Sen. Sanders popularity.
“Left-leaning students break so heavily for Sanders because they like his stances (on public education, on immigration, on campaign finance, etc.), and see him as speaking truth to power and staying very consistent over time,” she said.
Levi added that “Historically, voters between 18 and 24 have low voter turnout. That age demographic seems more excited (and exasperated) than usual by the candidates this election season.”
Michael Krasner, professor of Political Science at Queens College, and also co-director of Taft Institute for Government, said that there are specific reasons why young voters are attracted to Sen. Sanders.
“Job prospects for people coming out of college today are pretty grim…people are coming out with huge debt and these along with other economic factors suggest to young people that the system is not working for them,” Krasner said.
“In more general terms, young people see that the system needs fundamental changes and that’s what Sen. Sanders is talking about.”
Asked if young voters’ energy could carry-over to the general election, Levi said while it’s possible, politics by its nature is unpredictable.
“I hope that enthusiasm translates into historically high voter turnout for young voters,” she said, “But, like everything else this election season, it is hard to predict.”
She said that whoever becomes the eventual nominee for each party will be critical.
“If students aren’t as excited about their party’s nominee, the only hope for a historic turnout is if the other candidate has a very high unfavorable rating. If you can't vote for the candidate you love in the general election, at least you can be motivated to vote against the candidate you despise.”
Krasner also weighed-in on Hillary Clinton’s apparent unpopularity with young voters.
“Hillary is a person of the establishment, she has a record of fairly cozy relationships with big interests, and she also comes across as inauthentic,” Krasner said.
“Sometimes, people question whether Hillary really believes what she’s saying and that makes her appear calculating,” he said, adding, “that impression hurts her badly with young people.”