Census reports drop in young adult voters in 2012 elections

President Barack Obama, left, and former Mass. Gov. President Barack Obama, left, and former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney in file photos. Photo Credit: AP

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The voting rate of young adults dropped between the 2008 and 2012 elections, a departure from the increase seen in the presidential races in 2004 and 2008, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau report.

The bureau found the voting rate among 18- to 29-year-olds fell to 38 percent in 2012, down from 44.3 percent in 2008, the year then-Sen. Barack Obama first ran for president, garnering large support from college students, among others, in his historic win as the nation's first black president.

"Traditionally in American elections, young people have stood out for their consistently low levels of electoral participation, but a shift has appeared in some years, at least in part, in the direction of greater engagement," the bureau's report said.

"The young adult voting gap closed somewhat from 2000 to 2008 but opened up a bit again in 2012," Thom File, a Census Bureau sociologist, said in a statement. He added, however, "Age-based voting patterns are not set in stone. For example, as recently as 1992, the nation's oldest voters did not vote at a level higher than all other age groups," as they do now.

The voting rate of young adults in New York State was 42 percent in 2012, a decline from 47 percent in 2008.

"The reason why I think younger voters were not participating at the same rate in 2012 as in 2008 is because of the nauseatingly toxic politics that turns people off, particularly young people who are more idealistic and don't have a range of experience with the brass knuckles version of American politics," said Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Group, a student-directed research and advocacy group.

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Jeffrey Guillot, founder of the Suburban Millennial Institute, a nonpartisan think tank "dedicated to raising awareness about Long Island's brain drain," said, "We don't do enough to engage young folks in the local political process," and lamented the lack of civics education in schools.

David Laska, a spokesman for the New York State Republican Committee, said the GOP in New York is actively reaching out to young people through events geared to young professionals, recent college graduates and college Republican groups. "Reaching out to younger voters is an essential part of party building."

State Democratic Party officials could not be reached. But the Nassau County Young Democrats issued a statement, which read in part: "The shift from young adults 18-29 voting less after the 2008 election can largely be attributed to a few factors. Young adults were at the forefront of the conversation in 2008, with endless talk about making college more affordable, and enhancing student loans to make them easier to obtain and pay back. In 2012, this was much less the case, as many other issues took the limelight." It also noted "the lack of young adults' levels of civic engagement . . ."

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