New Rock the Vote Poll: Young Voters’ Election Energy Intensifies, Spurred by Economic Concerns and Desire for Change

Rock the Vote’s latest poll of 18-29 year olds shows young voters are increasingly engaged in the upcoming presidential election, driven by concerns over the faltering economy and a sense that our country needs a new direction.  Concern over the economy, while a top issue for young people since 2006, has intensified and is now the number one issue this election for nearly half (41%) of 18-29 year olds. 
The political leanings of young voters have remained steady since Rock the Vote’s last poll in February: when asked for whom they would vote for president in November, 56% said Barack Obama and 29% said John McCain.
Rock the Vote, in conjunction with the bipartisan polling team of Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, commissioned this survey of 500 young adults, the latest in a series of young voter polls conducted by this team since 2006. The survey was taken by landline and cellular phones September 8-17, 2008.
“This election year the issues are important, the stakes are high, the playing field is historic – and young voters know it,” said Heather Smith, Executive Director of Rock the Vote.  “There is no doubt young voter turnout to the polls this November will be big, and will play a major role in this election.  You can count on seeing the true power of young people come to play at the polls on November 4th.”
Key findings from the survey include:
The faltering economy is at the top of young voters’ minds, although Iraq remains a strong concern.

-41% of those surveyed said the next president should take action on the economy and jobs as his first move in office.
-51% said “creating jobs” was a 10 on a scale of 1-10 (most important) in deciding for whom to vote in November.  In a close second and third, “gas prices/energy” were cited by 50% of those surveyed as a 10 as well, while 45% cited “health care” as a 10.
-Despite the economic focus, the war in Iraq remains a central concern. 24% of those surveyed said “Iraq” or “bring the troops home” should be the first thing the new president takes action on, while 45% rated it a 10 on a scale of issues important in deciding for whom to vote.

Young voters want to hear more about the issues from the presidential candidates. Health care, college affordability, the environment, creating jobs, immigration – for nearly every issue surveyed, young voters said the presidential candidates are not spending enough time talking about them.

-63% want to hear more about creating jobs, 56% want to hear more about health care, and 64% want to hear more about college affordability.
-54% want more on gas prices/energy and 50% want more on immigration.

Young voters are paying serious attention to this election, and know they will play a major role in a historic moment. There is a political youth movement happening in our country.

– 87% plan to vote in November (up from 82% in our February poll).
– 57% are following the election extremely or very closely (up from 42% in February).
– 88% think that, as a group, young people have the power to change things in this country.
– 82% think this election is an opportunity to make history by electing the first African American president; 69% think this election is an opportunity to make history by electing the first woman vice president.

Young voters are paying close attention to election news and get their information primarily from friends and family, followed by traditional and online news sources. 
– 92% have talked with friends or family about the election.
– 81% receive election news from cable television, 79% from national network television, and 79% from local television.
– 68% of young people get there election news from papers; 63% get news from online sources.

Young voters continue to lean Democratic, both in party identification and in vote choice.

-In today’s poll, 50% of 18-29 year olds say they are Democrats, 29% say they are Republicans, and 12% say they are Independents.
-When asked for whom they will vote in November, 56% say Barack Obama and 29% say John McCain.  13% remain undecided.
-For Congress, 49% say they will vote for a Democrat and 27% for a Republican.

“Democrats are winning big this year among young voters, and young voters’ high level of engagement has the potential to turn into record turnout at the polls,” said Celinda Lake, President of Lake Research Partners.  “Senator Obama nearly doubles Senator McCain’s vote share, Congressional Democrats lead by more than 20 points, and young people want change.  Every Democratic campaign should pay close attention to the growing youth movement.  Young voters are not just key swing targets. They are base turnout targets, and we can achieve victory in November if we target them and turn them out.”

 “John McCain is engaging young people like no Republican candidate has since Ronald Reagan in 1980,” said Brian Nienaber, Vice President of the Tarrance Group. “Over the next 41 days, Republicans will energize and mobilize our young voters to the polls. Come November, we are confident that young Republicans will be a key coalition in the victories of our candidates. ”
Already during the 2008 election cycle, more than 1.6 million people have registered to vote through Rock the Vote’s online and grassroots outreach.  With the launch of Rock the Vote’s “Road Trip ’08” last week, new back-to-school programs, partnerships with Facebook and MySpace, and outreach from artists Christina Aguilera, Juanes, Souljah Boy, and more, Rock the Vote is poised to register more than 2 million voters by Election Day, and help mobilize the largest 18-29 year old turnout to the polls in three decades.
The full Rock the Vote September 2008 Young Voter Poll and analyses from The Tarrance Group and Lake Research Partners are available at
Methodology: Lake Research Partners designed and administered this survey, which was conducted by phone using professional interviewers. The survey reached 650 young adults (18-29) nationwide. The base sample of 500 interviews nationwide included 171 respondents reached on cell phones and 329 respondents reached on landlines. We also called oversamples of 75 Latinos and 75 African Americans, for a total of 650 interviews. The survey was conducted September 8-17, 2008. Telephone numbers for the survey were drawn using random digit dial (RDD). The data were weighted slightly by gender, age, race, party identification, and phone usage in order to ensure that it more accurately reflects the population. The margin of error for the survey is around +/- 4.4 percentage points.
About Rock the Vote:  Rock the Vote’s mission is to engage and build the political power of young people in order to achieve progressive change in our country.  Rock the Vote uses music, popular culture and new technologies to engage and incite young people to register and vote in every election. And we give young people the tools to identify, learn about, and take action on the issues that affect their lives, and leverage their power in the political process.  Rock the Vote is creative, effective, and controlled by nobody’s agenda but our own – we tell it like it is and pride ourselves on being a trusted source for information on politics.  We empower the 45 million young people in America who want to step up, claim their voice in the political process, and change the way politics is done.