Voter turnout for Tuesday’s Ohio primary was a disappointing 13.9 percent but the turnout among young people — those aged 30 and under — was even lower.
Although the Republican primary in Ohio was highly contested, youth turnout was far below the amount that voted in the 2008 primary. Just 7 percent of Ohio youth turned out Tuesday to vote in the Republican primary, compared to 25 percent four years ago when there was both a contested Democratic and Republican primary.
An analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) found that about 131,000 young people voted Tuesday, with 37 percent choosing Rick Santorum, 28 percent choosing Mitt Romney and 25 percent choosing Ron Paul.
Despite the dismal number, Ohio still was above the overall youth turnout for the 10 contests on Super Tuesday. CIRCLE found that youth turnout was 5 percent in the seven primaries and three caucuses.
Combining the five Super Tuesday states in which exit polls were conducted with adequate youth samples, CIRCLE estimates that 88,000 total youth voted for Paul, with nearly 88,000 who voted for Santorum, about 86,000 for Romney, and about 43,000 for Newt Gingrich.
The candidates performed differently in each state: Paul came in first among youth voters in Virginia; Santorum, in Ohio and Tennessee; Romney, in Massachusetts; and Gingrich, in Georgia.
In all of the primaries and caucuses so far — excluding states where there were no exit or entrance polls about youth vote choice — youth vote tallies stand at approximately 201,000 for Romney, 200,000 for Paul, 162,000 for Santorum, and 87,000 for Gingrich.
By this point in the 2008 primary campaign, Democrat Barack Obama had drawn more than six times as many youth votes as any of the Republican 2012 candidates, with about 1.36 million youth votes, although more primaries were contested on or before Super Tuesday in 2008.
Political observers have theorized there is an “enthusiasm gap” among Republican voters based on lower overall voter turnout in most of the states that have held presidential primaries so far.
Ohio’s overall voter turnout this year was 13.9 percent, higher than the 12.8 percent who voted in 2008, but lower than the 16.8 percent who voted in 2000, according to a review by the Bipartisan Policy Center and the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.
Based on final and official results from the six states whose primaries preceded Super Tuesday and near final and unofficial results from the seven Super Tuesday primaries, 7.85 million people voted out of 68.13 million eligible citizens, or 11.5 percent.
Turnout was 13.2 percent of eligible citizens in 2008, and it was 12.2 percent in 2000.
Founded in 2001, CIRCLE conducts research on young Americans’ voting and political participation, along with other forms of civic engagement. It is based at Tufts University in Massachusetts.
Founded in 2007 by former Senate Majority Leaders Howard Baker, Tom Daschle, Bob Dole and George Mitchell, the Bipartisan Policy Center is a think tank that seeks to create policy solutions through “reasoned negotiation and respectful dialogue.” It is based in Washington, D.C.