Chris Cilliza posted a really interesting article today on the role of the youth vote in 2008 – read here. He makes the point that youth turnout was not actually substantially greater in 2008 than in the last few elections – but it was very important because Obama won it by such a huge margin.
The most common misconception about 2008 is that Obama grew the youth vote — defined for our purposes as those between 18 and 29 years old — by any significant measure as compared to past elections. He didn’t.
Take a look at this chart, which details the percentage of the overall electorate 18-29-year-old voters comprised in every presidential election since 1980:
Young voters comprised 18 percent of the electorate in 2008, a one-point improvement from their share of the electorate in 2004, 2000 and 1996, but nowhere near the heights they reached in the 1980s.
What Obama did do — good grammar! — is win young voters by a far greater margin than any Democratic presidential nominee in modern times.
Again, we turn to a chart looking at the percentages the Democratic and Republican nominees won among 18-29-year-old voters: