Young voters are showing much less interest in this year's election compared to young voters in 2008 and compared to other age groups, according to a new report by Pew Research Center. Voter registration is also down sharply from 2008 among young adults.
Young voters, ages 18 to 29, who say they have given quite a lot of thought to the election has dropped 17 percentage points, from 65 to 48 percent, from 2008 to 2012. The percentage of those who say they are following the campaign closely is about half what it was in 2008, going from 35 to 18 percent. And the share of young voters saying they definitely plan to vote this year has dropped nine percentage points, from 72 percent in 2008 to 63 percent this year.
Only half, 50 percent, of 18- to 29-year-olds say they are certain they have registered to vote, the lowest it has been in the 16 years Pew has conducted polling. In 2008, that number was 61 percent. By comparison, 70 percent of those aged 30 to 49, 82 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds, and 87 percent of those 65 and over, say they are certain they have registered.
The decline in young adult engagement is about the same for President Barack Obama supporters as it is for those who supported John McCain in 2008 or are supporting Mitt Romney this year.
Among all age groups, the largest drop in voter engagement is among moderate and liberal Republicans. The percentage of this group that is highly engaged in the election dropped 16 percentage points, from 89 percent in 2008 to 73 percent this year.
Obama currently leads Mitt Romney among young voters, 59 to 35 percent.
Obama received strong support among young voters in 2008, winning the support of 66 percent of those 18 to 29. Pew found that his current level of support has dropped only slightly from 2008 for young females, from 69 to 65 percent, but has dropped significantly among young males, from 62 to 53 percent.
Pew's data for 2012 was based upon a Sept. 12-16 survey of 3,019 adults. The margin of error for the full sample is 2.1 percentage points, but is larger for subgroups.