NEW HAVEN, Conn., 2:31 p.m. — In New Hampshire, Senator Barack Obama seemed to be the darling of students, who flocked to his rallies and cheered for him as if he were a rock star. To young people, he was supposed to be a candidate who represented a new generation of politics, a voice for change standing up for them in a way no other candidate could, or wanted to.
And, sure enough, young people in the Granite State turned out en masse for Obama yesterday. But an analysis of exit polls reveals that while Obama indisputably dominated New Hampshire’s youth vote, he captured significantly less of it then he did in Iowa. And as Senator Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 enjoyed heavy support from women across the state, a much larger demographic, there went the primary.
In New Hampshire, turnout among people under 30 more than doubled compared to 2004, rising from 18 percent to 43 percent, according to The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement. Overall, young people represented 16 percent of all votes cast, up from 14 percent in the last primary, according to the organization.
That increase in turnout was expected, and it was predicted to boost Obama. But it turned out that Obama’s support among young people actually declined since the Iowa caucus, and Clinton — perhaps unexpectedly — more than doubled her support, according to exit polls.
In Iowa, under-30 voters voted 57 percent for Obama and 11 percent for Clinton. They represented 22 percent of all Democratic votes cast.
But in the Granite state, under-30 voters voted 50 percent for Obama and 28 percent for Clinton. They represented 18 percent of all Democrat votes cast.
So what happened in New Hampshire?
For one, while the youngest voters overwhelmingly backed Obama, among people 25 to 29 years old, Clinton actually squeezed by Obama, 37 percent to 35 percent. (The entrance polls from Iowa did not break down the under-30 vote by age group.) And while candidates other than Clinton and Obama gained the vote of a third of Iowa’s under-30 voters, in New Hampshire, they received only about 20 percent of the vote. Some of the support those second-tier candidates received in Iowa seemed to transfer over to Clinton in New Hampshire.
Whatever precisely accounted for the shift, its importance cannot be underemphasized. Clinton won the primary by only three points, and her rise in support among young voters accounts for that margin.
— Thomas Kaplan