February 6, 2008

According to preliminary data by CIRCLE, youth turn out increased in most states that participated in the Super Tuesday primaries. In the 13 states that CIRCLE has analyzed, the turn out among 18- to 29-year-olds tripled compared with 2000 in three states–Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, doubled in Massachusetts, and quadrupled in Tennessee.

Over 2 million 18- to 29-year-olds participated in the Democratic elections compared to roughly 900,000 in the Republican contests. In the Democratic contests, Obama won the largest share of the youth vote in ten Super Tuesday states. Clinton won the youth vote in MA, CA, and AR. In the Republican contests, youth support varied by state. (For more detailed, state-by-state break down of the youth turn out data, visit CIRCLE.)

Our website host had to shut down Wiretap on Super Tuesday, because it allegedly detected a hacker trying to run an attack code and alter the content of our site. Well, hackers, we are flattered that you consider our website a threatening noise machine. And I am sorry to hear that you couldn’t outsmart Wiretap’s genius web developers.

Shutting down Wiretap though can’t cause a major blow to the youth vote or youth activism anymore. In the past five years, the field of youth organizing grew to over 600 youth-driven organizations, which means that information and resources are now de-centralized and distributed more democratically. If one of us is down in 2008, we’ve got a dozen of allies that can fill in.

In addition to the growing youth activism and record youth voter turn out we saw so far, 2008 will also go down in history as a year in which youth organizers collaborated more than ever. Last week, I talked to more than a dozen youth organizations that are engaged in various coalitions that convene organizers on the phone, in person, through Facebook and group emails to coordinate Get-Out-the-Vote (GOTV) efforts, share ideas about best practices and practical tools, create “Speaker Bureaus” for the media, and most importantly, build a sense of long-term community that doesn’t view young voters as a one night stand.

Karlo Barrios Marcelo, one of the researchers over at the CIRCLE, breaks down the youth vote and what motivates young voters for CBS this week.

If these efforts don’t fizzle out, there will be many more stories like the recent “The Year of the Youth Vote” in Time magazine. After more than three years of finding ourselves on the defensive at Wiretap working to debunk the typical myths that “young people are lazy, apathetic, ignorant,” we are happy to change the record and write a new chapter that looks at the varying backgrounds, burning issues and values of the 80 million Millennials. Various studies show that they are the most diverse and civically minded generation this country has ever seen.

But this generation is also coming of age at a time when America has had growing poverty and violence among youth, increasing school drop-out rates and unemployment, escalating housing and education costs for two decades. As these disparities grow, the way low-income youths and middle-class youths or urban and rural youths engage in politics and prioritize issues will be very different. And if we want to understand how to get young people of varying backgrounds to the polls and more importantly, keep them engaged after canvassers close shop, we better stay committed to hearing and empowering this generation for the long haul.

Kristina Rizga is an editor and publisher of the online Wiretap magazine.