Young Voters Key, Says UI Poll
Barack Obama has a huge national lead among young voters, says a a University of Iowa Hawkeye Poll released today, but the matter of whether they will show up on Election Day is still up in the air.
"If they show up in record numbers, they will decidedly tip the scale toward an Obama victory," said David Redlawsk, the University of Iowa political scientist who directed the poll. "But if they fail to turn out, the final result is likely to be very close."
The national poll, conducted Oct. 5-18, showed registered voters 35 or younger favoring Obama by a 26-point margin over John McCain. Voters over 70 favored McCain by five percent, and voters age 36 to 54 supported Obama by five percent.
However, less than 40 percent of younger voters are paying close attention to the election. "This suggests they're less engaged, said Redlawsk, "and perhaps less likely to turn out, because those who pay attention are more likely to vote."Voter attention increases with age, with over 70 percent of the 70-plus voters paying close attention.
"By historical standards, the level of interest is extremely high across all ages," said Redlawsk.
Another difference for younger voters is that they are the only group that uses the internet as their primary news source. All older age groups rely more on television.
Perhaps as a result, the youngest voters were less tuned in to some of the controversies that have dominated television. Only 23 percent of young voters were aware of '60s radical Bill Ayers, to whom the McCain camp has tried to link Obama, compared to 38 to 47 percent of older voters. But, more than 81 percent of younger voters had followed polls closely, which was right in line with the 79 to 87 percent of other age groups.
"Younger voters haven't paid as much attention to the issues and personalities central to the campaigns as older voters have," Redlawsk said. "Still, they're just as curious to know which candidate is ahead as any other voter is."