Let’s look at the numbers from the election in an attempt to make some sense out of it. In 2012, Romney won Texas with 57.2% of the vote versus Obama’s 41.4%, close to 1.3 million more votes than the President, that is a 15.84% margin. This is not surprising, considering that last time Texas went for a Democratic nominee was in 1976 – Jimmy Carter. Close to eight million Texans casted a ballot in this election. Republicans have gained a two-percentage lead in the state from 2008.
Now looking at Travis County: 385,081 voted in Travis County this year in the presidential race, 60.1% went for Obama and 36.2% for Romney. There are 635,300 registered voters in Travis County, bringing this year’s countywide turnout to 61.3%.
Back in 2008, the President won Travis County 63.5-34.3. Over the last four years, the President’s advantage eroded more than three percentage points. [Interesting Side Note: My native Harris County in Houston was split down the middle, essentially tied, with the President edging a win with a mere +585 margin. Jefferson County is another close win for the President, 50.4% over 48.8%. Texas is all red except Travis County, Dallas County, Harris County, Bexar County, counties in the Valley, and a few counties in West Texas]
The youth vote (19-29) went to Obama 60-36 in this election. That is a 24-percentage point gap that Republicans need to close in coming years. However, this can be viewed as improvement from the 66-31 ratio in 2008. Nationally, the Obama coalition lost five percentage points in youth vote. This has to be one of the most under reported statistics from this election (all we hear about is that Latinos overwhelmingly voted for Obama). Obviously, the Republican Party can do more to include young voters into its fold.
To provide you with an idea of how important – or rather, how underrated – the youth vote is to this year’s election: according to CIRCLE, “In Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, if Romney had won half the youth vote, or if young people had stayed home all together, he would have won those key battleground states. A switch of those 80 electoral votes would have also changed the presidency, electing Romney as president.”
This speaks to the strength of the youth vote in the years to come, particularly in the next presidential election. 23 million young voters turned out to vote in this election, which is only one half of eligible young voters, meaning the other half is left untapped by political organizations. In toss-up, or leaning states, youth turnout was as high as 55-58%. There are 3.7 million youth voters in Texas. That is 23% of the state’s eligible voters. Turnout is under 40%, so more than 2 million young people do not turn out to vote. If 60% of them do turnout and vote Democrats in future elections, Texas might become a blue state. That is how big of a deal young voters are to the future political landscape.
Who are the young voters? Well 1 out of 11 youth voters self identify as LGBTQ, that is more than double the proportion of the electorate as a whole. 1 out of 10 youth voters are Hispanic young men. About half of the youth voters (44%) are Hispanics, Blacks, or LGBTQ, groups that voted overwhelmingly for the President. 90% of youth have family income at or below $50k. The youth vote has gained 17 million new members since 2008. While fewer young voters identified themselves as Democrats this election, almost none moved into the GOP rank – more identified as “independents.”
A particular stab at young Republicans’ failure in messaging this past election: overwhelming proportion of youth (67%) blamed the economy on George W. Bush. Young minority women voted overwhelmingly for the President, with young black females voting 98% for the President. Not all youth groups supported the President though; young white males and young white females supported GOP by a slim margin. Young females have a slight better turnout than young males. Mobilizing young males to go to the polls may help Republicans in the future. Also, the GOP needs to do more to explain the role of government to non-whites. There is a 20-point gap between non-White young males and white young males on their view of the role of government. 66% of youth with college experienced turned out to vote, versus 35% of youth without college experience. GOP needs to do a better job reaching out to youth without college experience. That requires a new way of thinking about social media outreach and campaigning beyond mere college campuses, as college aged (18-24) young voters make up only about one-fourth of the youth vote.
Sources: CIRCLE, Travis County Clerk, Politico Election Results, Dave Leip’s Atlas Election Results