Polling data indicates younger voters overwhelmingly favored Barack Obama over John McCain. "Young voters" are classified as the 18- to 29-year-old crowd and that group accounted for 18% of the votes cast in this year’s election.
Iowa State University political science professor Dianne Bystrom says youth turnout in 2004 was 17%. "They did increase their share of the electorate but just by one percentage point because everybody got out to vote," Bystrom says. "The other thing we know is that 66 percent of young voters voted for Barack Obama."
In the Reagan era, back in the 1980s, a majority younger voters chose Republican candidates according to Bystrom. "I’m not sure we’re at the cusp of a liberal era," Bystrom says, "but we can say that young voters are registering Democratic and they’re voting for Democratic candidates not only for president, but also for congress."
Bystrom, the head of I.S.U.’s Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, says Sarah Palin — the first Republican vice presidential nominee — may have helped McCain win the votes of some women. "Women that are usually defined by the media as ‘soccer moms’ or ‘security moms’. Those are usually white, suburban women with children. They tend to vote Republican. They voted for George Bush in 2000 and 2004. The last time they voted for a Democrat was in 1996 for Bill Clinton," Bystrom says. "That’s a group that (Palin) may have helped deliver for McCain, but it wasn’t enough."
Bystrom says Palin also energized the social conservative base of the Republican Party, but that wasn’t enough either when confronted with the gains Obama made among other groups of voters.