Youth Vote Sets Stage for Clean Energy

NWF   |   November 7, 2008

On Tuesday, November 4, millennials became the most powerful voting block in the U.S and among their concerns, according to Power Vote organizers, a non-partisan Get Out the Vote campaign, were clean energy, climate protection and green jobs.

An estimated 22 million millennials (youth, ages 18-29) turned out to the polls– 2.2 million more than in 2004, according to preliminary findings of the Tufts University Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). Youth voter turnout in 2008 represents an estimated 6% increase over 2004 levels and an estimated 13% increase over 2000 levels. It may be the second highest youth voter turnout since1972 when the eligible voting age was decreased from 21 to 18.

Among the dynamics of the election were the non-partisan efforts to turn out the youth vote such as MTV’s Rock the Vote, the PIRG’s New Voter Project and the Energy Action Coalition’s Power Vote initiative, organized by more than 30 national and regional campus and youth organizations, including the National Wildlife Federation, whose Power Vote team was led by the Federation’s campus field director, Lisa Madry.

The Power Vote campaign, organized on more than 300 campuses, generated 341,127 pledges from youth organizers who promised to vote and to hold whoever was ultimately elected at all levels of government in 2008 accountable for shifting to clean energy and creating millions of new green jobs. The number of pledges collected equals about 1/6 of the total increase in the youth voter turnout in 2008.

The millennial vote may have swung the US election overall. For example, Obama won the youth vote by 50 points in North Carolina, turning the state from red to blue, but lost every other age group in the state. Similarly, in Indiana, Obama won the youth vote 63 to 35, but lost every other age group. Overall, voters chose Obama over McCain by a much narrower margin (52%-46%) than millennials who voted two-to-one (66 to 32%) for Obama.