(From the diaries - georgia10)
Barack Obama may be riding the momentum of a caucus win into New Hampshire, but the real winner in tonight's Iowa caucus was young voters.
It's been a long and rocky road for young voters - in the media and in the party - For four years, the media has declared (incorrectly) that young voters were the downfall of Howard Dean, whose over-reliance on an "unreliable demographic" ushered in his defeat in the 2004 caucus. This, despite the fact that youth turnout at the caucus increased that year. For the last year, we've heard how Obama's strategy was foolhardy, and even from the campaign we heard that the youth vote would be "icing on the cake."
It turns out, it was the cake.
According to estimates by CIRCLE (pdf) youth vote turnout at the caucus tripled tonight, rising from 4% to 11%. Within the Democratic caucus, over 46,000 young people participated, and young voters comprised 22% of all caucus-goers. According to entrance polls by CNN, 57% of those 17-29 year old caucus goers stood up to caucus for Barack Obama. Tonight, they drove his campaign to victory.
The numbers themselves were larger than expected, especially considering the early caucus date during winter break for most colleges. But no one who has been paying attention to young voters in the past four years should be surprised that young Iowans played such a significant role in tonight's caucus. These are not isolated incidents. In 2004, youth participation in the Iowa Caucus quadrupled. In the 2004 general election, youth turnout saw the largest increase in over a decade. Turnout was also up in 2006 (pdf). Tonight's caucus turnout was part of a four year trend in young voter turnout.
Tonight was also a victory for the Democratic Party. Participation in the caucus almost doubled. 212,000 Democratic voters turned out compared to 125,000 in 2004. About 46,000 of those caucus-goers were young voters. Compare that to the Republicans: CIRCLE (pdf) reports that only 10,000 young people participated in the Republican caucus, just 10% of all Republican caucus-goers. This too is a trend. In 2004, young voters broke in favor of John Kerry over President Bush 54 - 45%. In 2006, young voters chose Democratic candidates 60% - 38%, increasing a growing trend towards favoring progressive candidates.
Young voters are increasingly moving in the direction of Democrats, and tonight, the Obama campaign - thanks to a savvy youth operation that reached out on Facebook and MySpace, at high schools and on college campuses - was able to capitalize on that to attain victory. His win confirms what many have been saying for years now: young people will vote if you pay attention to the, speak to their issues, and reach out. New technologies can certainly help make that initial connection, yet it's still good old fashioned face to face politicking - peer to peer organizing - that makes the difference. Years ago, when young people began voting Republican during the Reagan Era, Democrats stopped asking young voters to participate. Tonight's victory shows what individual candidates, and the Democratic Party stand to gain by courting today's young voters.
Tonight we saw the the core of a future progressive majority make its presence known in Democratic politics. Young Voters are not a hidden vote or icing on the cake, and after tonight, everyone knows it.