New Poll: 18-30-Year-Olds to Play Major Role in 2008 Elections

Eighteen- to 30-year-old voters turned out in large numbers for elections in 2004 and 2006 ‘ and according to a new nationwide poll from Rock the Vote, WWE”s Smackdown Your Vote!’, and Sacred Heart University, that trend is likely to continue in 2008 as younger voters go to the polls motivated by concerns over the war in Iraq, health care, the economy, and the cost of education.

The poll found that Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani are currently the top primary choices among 18-30-year-old Democrats and Republicans.

“This poll suggests that the 2008 presidential campaign is effectively capturing the imagination of young Americans. Change is a resounding theme in the 2008 campaign, and voters between the ages of 18-30 appear drawn to the dynamism and messages of presidential candidates within both major parties,” commented Gary Rose, Ph.D., professor and chair of SHU’s Department of Government and Politics. “More generally, the polling results indicate that the votes of this motivated generation will have direct bearing on the election of our next President and Congress.”

“Young voters are a potential powerhouse in the 2008 elections,” said Kat Barr, research director with Rock the Vote. “This poll is yet another indicator that candidates who want to win in 2008 must court this large and increasingly active group of voters.” After declining nearly continuously for three decades, 18-29-year-olds’ voter turnout has increased in the past two major elections. In 2004, 4.3 million more voters under 30 cast ballots than had in 2000 ‘ the total 18-29-year-old vote, 20.1 million, rivaled in size the much sought-after over-65 vote (23 million). Youth turnout also increased in 2006, by 1.9 million over 2002 levels.

Key findings from the poll, which surveyed 400 18-30-year-olds nationwide, include:

  • Increasingly Engaged and Positive

  • More than three-quarters (77%) indicated they are paying a “great deal” of attention to the November 2008 presidential election, much higher rates than found in similar polling from this time in 2003.

  • A large majority (87%) report they plan to vote in November 2008, and 85% believe that their vote counts, up from 75% one year ago. (SHU 9/06 poll)

  • Top Issues:

  • Top issues are the war in Iraq (28%), health care (22%), the economy (14%), and education (13%).

  • When asked whether they agreed with certain statements, 82% reported they are concerned with college affordability, 68% said global warming is a real and growing threat, and 65% said the U.S. government should provide universal health care to all.

  • On Iraq, 49% of 18-30-year-olds said the U.S. should withdraw immediately. When asked about the surge, 49% said that it appears to be helping the situation.

  • Vote Choice:

  • Among young Democrats, Hillary Clinton was the top choice to win the Democratic primary (54%), followed by Barack Obama (24%), and John Edwards (8.4%).

  • Among young Republicans, Rudy Giuliani received the most primary support (32%), followed by Fred Thompson (20%), Mitt Romney (16%), and John McCain (13%).

  • For the November 2008 general election, 56% of 18-30-year-olds chose a Democrat as their preferred candidate, while 39% selected Republican candidates.

  • “We’re exhilarated that the trend of increased voter participation by 18-30-year-olds, which WWE has helped to foster since becoming involved in encouraging young people to vote, is looking like it will continue in 2008,” said Gary Davis, executive director, WWE’s Smackdown Your Vote! “We are planning a very aggressive campaign in 2008 to excite young adults about the prospect of shaping the future of their nation by casting their vote in the 2008 election.”

    For full poll results and an analysis from Sacred Heart University, go to

    How the Poll Was Conducted:

    The Sacred Heart University Polling Institute conducted this poll, a nationwide survey of 400 18-30-year-olds between October 5-15, 2007. The sample was generated proportional to population contribution in all 50 states. Statistically, a sample of 400 completed telephone interviews represents a margin for error of +/-5.0% at a 95% confidence level.

    About Rock the Vote

    Rock the Vote, founded nearly twenty years ago in response to a wave of attacks on freedom of speech and artistic expression, coordinates voter registration drives, get out the vote events, and voter education efforts — all with the intention of building political power for our nation’s youth. In the 2004 election cycle, Rock the Vote ran the largest nonpartisan youth voter registration drive in the country. Building on that success, in 2008 Rock the Vote will register two million 18-29 year olds to vote and help continue the recent momentum of growing young voter turnout.

    About WWE’s Smackdown Your Vote!

    Smackdown Your Vote! was created in July 2000, as a non-partisan partnership to reach the 18-to 30-year-old demographic. In addition to WWE, the partnership has grown since then to include such organizations as the Rock the Vote, League of Women Voters, Harvard’s Institute of Politics, and National Association of Secretaries of State, and which has developed a strong presence in the world of youth vote initiatives. This partnership combines the strengths of each organization to reach the millions of young adults ages 18 to 30 years old to encourage them to become active participants in their democracy.

    Trademarks: All WWE programming, talent names, images, likenesses, slogans, wrestling moves, and logos are the exclusive property of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. ECW is a trademark of WWE Libraries, Inc. All other trademarks, logos and copyrights are the property of their respective owners.

    About Sacred Heart University

    Sacred Heart University, the second-largest Catholic university in New England, offers more than 40 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs on its main campus in Fairfield, Connecticut, and satellites in Connecticut, Luxembourg and Ireland. Approximately 5,800 students attend the University’s four colleges: Arts & Sciences; Education & Health Professions; University College; and the AACSB-accredited John F. (Jack) Welch College of Business. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its “Best 366 Colleges: 2008,” U.S. News & World Report’s “America’s Best Colleges 2008” ranks SHU among the best master’s universities in the North, and Intel rates it #11 among the nation’s most “unwired” campuses. SHU fields 32 Division I athletic teams, and has an award-winning program of community service.