COURSEY: Young voters look to the future
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 12:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 at 12:57 p.m.
There's been a lot of talk about the impact of “demographics” on this year's election, with most of the emphasis leaning heavily toward the increased clout of minorities, or – as GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan put it – “urban” voters.
And there's no doubt that a big turnout of Latino and black voters helped tilt the outcome in contests across the country.
But another big demographic group that weighed in this year was younger voters.
Unlike a lot of old, white voters, young voters apparently look to the future when they cast their vote. In California, they were given a large part of the credit for the near-miraculous passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative.
Prop. 30, which will temporarily raise the state sales tax for all and the income tax for high earners, won with 54 percent of the vote. But young voters – those between 18 and 29 – supported the initiative with about 66 percent of their votes, according to exit polling.
Had it been up to voters age 45 and older, Prop. 30 would have failed with less than 50 percent of the older vote, polling showed.
This trend bodes well for California. While old, white voters whose children have finished school become less and less inclined to support education and infrastructure improvements in the Golden State, younger and minority voters are bucking that trend.
This isn't an issue of “takers” and “givers,” as Mitt Romney suggested in his speech about the “47 percent” of Americans who consume the government services paid for by the rest. It's about recognizing needs, and being willing to provide government with the resources to meet those needs.
Education was the centerpiece of the campaign for Prop. 30. Its failure would have meant huge cuts to public schools in California, equivalent to losing three weeks of classroom instruction and forcing further cuts and/or fee hikes at state colleges and universities. Younger voters – including those attending college and young parents with children in public schools – responded at the voting booth.
Minority voters – less likely than whites to be comfortably ensconced in the suburbs – also recognized the need to maintain the availability of a good, affordable education in California. While whites were split 50-50 on Prop. 30, Latinos supported it by a 53-47 margin, Asians were in favor 61-39 and blacks said yes by 75-25.
Income levels also played a key role, with those earning less than $50,000 a year much more likely to support Prop. 30 than those earning more than $100,000 a year.
Sure, you say, it's easy for young, poor, minority voters to support a measure raising taxes on high earners. But the fact is, Prop. 30 raises taxes on everyone, and in many ways the increase in the sales tax may be more significant to a young family struggling to get by than the increase in the income tax is to a rich retired couple living in luxury.
So let's give thanks to the new power brokers in the electorate, who see a future in California despite the troubles of the present. Let's appreciate that, while some of our hide-bound contemporaries have decided that they have done enough for their state, there are still those who are willing to do a little more.
And, if you're an old, white voter like me and you don't find comfort in the thought that youngsters are shifting the political landscape, consider this silver lining reported the other day by the Associated Press:
Younger voters tend to wait until the last minute to make up their minds and they communicate primarily online, meaning traditional campaign methods such as mailers and phone calls don't work as well in reaching them.
Less campaign mail and fewer robo-calls? Every demographic should appreciate that.
Chris Coursey's blog offers a community commentary and forum, from issues of the day to the ingredients of life in Sonoma County.
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