Wave of First Time Voters Just a Trickle?


By: Warner Todd Huston

When George McGovern ran for president against Richard Nixon in 1972 the conventional wisdom before the polls opened was that the vaunted first-time voters among the youth of America were going to propel McGovern to victory. It was the first time that those under 21-years-old could vote and many imagined that young people in amazing numbers would turn out for the Democrats. The conventional wisdom in 1972, however, was wrong. The youth vote did not propel McGovern into the White House. Despite the probably apocryphal claim by Pauline Kael that she never met anyone who voted for Nixon, he won in a landslide.

Today we are once again faced with the conventional wisdom that the kiddies are going to come out in droves to vote for The One and propel Barack Obama and his message of hope-n-change into the Oval Office. But, are they? If they are, shouldn’t we be seeing this gigantic youth vote reflected in the polls? Certainly one would think so, but Gallup, for one, has found that young voters are not registering in droves and the numbers of first-time voters does not appear any larger than they were in the 2004 general election.

These surveys seem to argue against a great wave of young and first-time voters being driven to the polls by love for Europe’s favorite candidate.

Gallup has found that there is no increase in the proportion of first-time voters. It has also discovered that young voters are still less likely to vote than older voters, at least if their polling can be believed — granted polls have been notoriously unreliable the last few elections.

According to the first poll, Gallup found that a mere 13% of registered voters say that this election will be their first presidential election, a percentage that matches what they found in 2004. Even worse, using an expanded model, that number fell slightly to 11%. Now, these numbers match the higher than average first-time voters from the 2004 cycle, but it still seems to say that Obama has not brought any great wave of new voters to the polls.

As to the tsunami of new, young voters surging to the polls, Gallup doesn’t find the prospect likely. Gallup sums up its survey on the youth vote for 2008 as such:

Gallup Poll daily tracking suggests that 18- to 29-year-olds are not nearly as likely as older voters to be registered to vote, to say they are thinking about the election, or to express strong intentions to vote. Thus, as of mid-October, there is not convincing evidence in the Gallup data that young voters will in fact vote at higher rates than in past elections. But even if things change over the next two weeks and many more young adults do become motivated to vote, turnout alone would do little to change the candidates’ overall support, according to Gallup’s likely voter models.

And, to all that, I say good thing, too. Not just because I don’t want to see the most radically leftist candidate for president since Debbs and Thomas becoming our president — though I most assuredly do not wish such a thing — but I am glad the youth vote is no larger than normal because I just don’t want kids to vote at all.

That’s right, I don’t want anyone under 21 to vote. I think the 26th Amendment was an idiotic one that should never have come to pass. So, please do keep those uninformed, video game addled kid home on Election Day.

Many people will recall the reported words of the venerable Ben Franklin who said upon exiting the final session of the Constitutional convention that our representatives had created a republic “if we could keep it.” By this, Franklin meant that it is up to each of us to learn the issues, come to understand the principles upon which our system was created, as well as the mechanics of the system itself, in order to cast an informed vote, one that will uphold those principles and keep our government orderly. This all means that it is incumbent upon each of us to stay informed and to educate ourselves.

I will not, of course, claim that all people under 21 are inherently incapable of becoming such a well-rounded and informed citizen. In some cases, there are surely 19 year-olds that are smarter, more informed, and trustworthy than certain 30 year-olds out there. This is beyond question. But one cannot make general rules for society by honing in on every individual case. One must strike for the best general rule and generally it is true that people under 21 do not care a whit about government and will, therefore, make for uninformed — maybe even dangerous — voters.

It should be pointed out that when our nation was first constructed voting rights were in no way distributed universally. It is a fact that women and many minorities were ineligible to vote, not to mention that many white men who did not own property, make a certain yearly wage, or pay a certain level of taxes were denied the vote. Many of the Founders suggested that universal suffrage was even dangerous to the welfare of the nation, an idea that seems absurd by today’s standards.

The main concept for only offering the vote to landholders or people who made enough money to pay a certain level of taxes was that of a vested interest. You see, someone who is vested fully in the system such as those who have property to safeguard from government intrusion, or enough riches that government can threaten their holdings, has the most to gain and/or lose with their interactions with government. Such people have a vested interest in the actions of government that will force them to more carefully consider what that government does and, therefore, will be far more circumspect in their voting patterns. What and for whom such people vote for will weigh far heavier upon them than it might for someone without any vested interest in the system.

This is especially true for taxes. A person who is wealthy enough to materially lose their fortune to taxation is far more likely to require their representatives in Congress to be careful with budgetary matters and far less likely to vote for representatives who might raise taxes. However, someone living on the dole or someone who will lose nothing should taxes be raised has absolutely no imputes to put much thought or emotion into the issue. Most especially, those on the dole will find themselves in a position of being able to vote for someone who will give them free stuff. The later is a most dangerous situation and one we are faced with today with a large block of voters that constantly elect officials who will give them largess from government larders in an unsustainable way.

The truth is, though, few people under 25 are much vested in the system or the country. As a consequence, they have little interest in learning about the issues. After all, they have nothing vested in government. They are usually uninformed about our national philosophy, they do not generally pay large amounts of taxes, they don’t own property… heck, most of them don’t even have careers and families to support until sometime in the mid to late 20’s. Generally, those under 21 have no emotional connection nor even an intellectual connection to government and this generates little interest in voting.

But it’s far worse than disinterest. Many of the ones that do bother to vote do so out of a wild, childish and uninformed emotionalism that borders on the irrational. Not having the years of life experience that can lead them to more ably understand the issues, they are apt to fall for all kinds of intellectually vapid populism offered by people without scruples. The counterculture of the 1960s is the perfect example of such idiotic support of ideas antithetical to America. The riots, disruptions, and havoc wrecked by these foolish children back then are the perfect arguments against the youth vote. People of such ungoverned passions, with such a complete lack of knowledge or even an interest in the system should certainly be excluded from the privilege of voting.

So, please do keep your children home on Election Day. Let’s restrict the vote to folks with the knowledge and an actual vested interest in the outcome.

The Hard Numbers

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2006 only 22.1% of those 18 to 24 were reported voted and of the 25 to 34 age bracket only 33.5% did so.

Here is what the Census Bureau says about other elections:

1972   18 to 24- 49.6%   25 to 44- 62.7%

1976  
18 to 24- 42.2%   25 to 44- 58.7%

1980   18 to 24- 39.9%   25 to 44- 58.7%

1984   18 to 24- 40.8%   25 to 44- 58.4%

1988   18 to 24- 36.2%   25 to 44- 54%

1992   18 to 24- 42.8%   25 to 44- 58.3%

1996   18 to 24- 32.4%   25 to 44- 49.2%

2000   18 to 24- 32.3%   25 to 44- 49.8%

2004   18 to 24- 41.9%   25 to 44- 52.2%

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