Exit Polls Suggest Interesting Trends In VA Youth Turnout

Early numbers from Virginia’s 2013 gubernatorial election are showing some fascinating trends amongst youth voters based on a recent release of exit polls* from The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

Based on the best available data, CIRCLE estimates youth turnout was 26% on Election Day. Put into context, youth turnout in Virginia was 18% in 1997 and 17% in 2009. Translating Tuesday’s numbers would mean about 288,000 voters came to the polls out of a possible 1.1 million 18-29 year olds.

In an election decided by just under 56,000 votes, the power of the under 30 vote should not be underestimated. As a proportion of all voters this election, representation from 18-29 years olds is up 4% from 2009. While this may seem like a modest increase, historically turnout has been lower in off-year gubernatorials than presidential election years.

Looking at the youth vote breakdown of 18-29 year olds by candidate, Democrat Terry McAuliffe took 45% of the vote with 40% going to Republican Ken Cuccinelli. Libertarian candidate, Robert Sarvis, took an impressive 15% of the youth vote this election. CIRCLE Director Peter Levine notes “Virginia is… interesting in that Barack Obama won the state’s youth vote easily, but Democrat Terry McAuliffe got less than half of youth, and Libertarian Robert Sarvis ran relatively strong at 15%.”

However, a recent CNN exit poll* illustrates a interesting difference between 18-24 year olds and 25-29 year olds that may shed some light on the trend Levine mentioned. In their poll, CNN shows 45% of 18-24 year olds favored Cuccinelli over McAuliffe’s 39%. Conversely, 25-29 year olds favored McAuliffe with 50% of the vote over Cuccinelli at 35%.

With numbers that are sure to keep political pundits scratching their heads, one thing remains certain – young people need to continue to increase their representation in Virginia’s electorate to impact upcoming elections.

*Please note accurate age demographics have not always been captured by exits polls in recent elections.