MSNBC has a story declaring "Young voters not essential to Obama triumph." According to this article by Tom Curry,
AnaMaria Arumi, who directs the exit poll desk for NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo, has done the calculations based on the exit poll data and here is what she found: On a state-by-state level, when she re-ran the numbers as if there were no voters under 30, the only states that would switch to Republican presidential candidate John McCain are Indiana and North Carolina.
The MSNBC blog First Read adds a snarky aside, "(Never mind the cynics among us who may now send all these "young voters did it" press releases into their junk email folder.)"
Perhaps those cynics should hold on to their press releases for a moment. This may have seemed like a powerful story. Unfortunately, it's not quite true. Obama won more than just Indiana and North Carolina due to young voters.
In Ohio, Obama won 61-36 among the 18-29 group, which was 17% of voters. That's a gap of 4.25%. Obama won Ohio 51.15-47.25, a margin of 3.9%. So Obama would have lost Ohio, too, without young voters. And that one electoral vote in Nebraska, too.
Now it is true that Obama's landslide was so overwhelming that he would have still won the election without these four states (or even Virginia, which he would barely win without young voters). But Obama's margin of victory would be cut in half in Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Iowa, putting him perilously close to losing if McCain had been able to stage a comeback.
It's also notable that young voters 18-29 voted nationwide in record numbers (18% of voters) and in record proportions (an amazing 66-34 margin) for the Democrats to give Obama an advantage of 7.57 million votes. Without them, Obama's popular vote victory would have been cut to 400,000 votes, or 0.3%, essentially destroying Obama's mandate for change.
Young voters inspired by Obama were absolutely essential in U.S. Senate races in Georgia, Minnesota, Oregon, Alaska, and perhaps also Louisiana, not to mention numerous close races in the House as well as local and state elections.
It's also important to note that young people were a critical force turning the election to Obama. Whether they were schlepping to Florida or coming out in droves to the Iowa caucus, young voters won this election for Obama. They were the core of the volunteers who drove the enthusiasm for the Obama campaign. They were the people convincing their neighbors and relatives to vote for Obama. They were the bulk of the volunteers and low-paid campaign workers who did the essential grunt work of this campaign. They were the ones who utilized the web and social networking and cell phones and on-the-ground canvassing to turn what might have been another election stolen by Republicans into a landslide for Obama.
The cynical journalists can twist the poll numbers and dismiss the Obama Generation all they want, but we know the truth about how Obama transformed the youth numbers in this election to astonishing levels, and in doing so may have helped establish the foundation for a permanent progressive majority.