(U-WIRE) WASHINGTON – While some political analysts argue that young Americans are apathetic toward politics, a record number of 18 to 29 year olds came out to the polls in last week’s presidential election.
More than 20 million people ages 18 to 29 voted last week out of 120 million nationwide, compared to 18 million young people out of 105 million four years ago. However, the amount of young voters remained constant in both elections, at 17 percent.
After an almost two-day wait to hear the final outcomes in Ohio and Iowa, Incumbent President George W. Bush won the electoral and popular votes in a clear cut victory over democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry. Kerry conceded the election to Bush on Thursday morning after realizing that he lost the popular votes in these key states.
Analysts found young voters to be the only group that favored Kerry. The Associated Press’s exit polls reported that under-30 year olds favored Kerry over Bush, 55 percent to 44 percent, compared to a 48 percent to 46 percent edge for Al Gore in 2000
Researchers found that 18 to 29 year old turnout was up by 4.6 million voters from exit poll data from the 2000 election. The last time the youth vote increased dramatically was in the 1992 Clinton-Bush election; otherwise the youth vote has been on a general decline since 1972 when 18-year-olds first received the right to vote.
With a win of 286 electoral votes, Bush said he now has the “political capital” he needs to really push forward the types of legislation he supported in his campaign.
“I’ve earned capital in the campaign, political capital. And now I intend to spend it…And I’m going to spend it for what I told the people I’d spend it on, which is, you’ve heard the agenda: Social Security and tax reform, moving this economy forward, education, fighting and winning the war on terror,” he said in a press conference held three days after the election.
At the conference, Bush acknowledged that some of his decisions were unpopular abroad. Nevertheless, he said U.S. security interests would still drive his decision-making. Democrats, still recovering from their defeat, said they are looking to remedy flaws in their campaign.
”You always take stock after a loss like this, and it was a big disappointment,” said Rep. Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri. Critics said that Kerry’s campaign goals were not salient enough to win voters.
“We need to put ideas first,” said Al From, founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council. “Over the last 40 years we’ve seen the turf that we compete on shrink. We’ve got to be a national party.”
Experts said politicians should take young voters more seriously. However, Democrats trying to find mistakes in their campaign looked at the issues after the election, not the voters, to see what made the difference at the polls last Tuesday.
One controversial issue Democrats criticized was gay marriage. Proposed state constitutional amendments to ban same-sex marriage were approved in all 11 states where they were on the ballot Tuesday. Supporters say that this initiative may have increased the turnout of socially conservative voters to solidify victory of the popular vote for President Bush.
Since Kerry’s loss last week, some Democrats have begun to point fingers at San Francisco mayor, Gavin Newsom, who allowed same-sex marriages last year, as a contributing factor to failure in the democratic campaign.
“The thing that agitated people were the mass weddings,” said Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, an openly gay member of Congress, who opposed the weddings last year. “It was a mistake in San Francisco compounded by people in Oregon, New Mexico and New York. What it did was provoke a lot of fears.” With a slight Republican majority in Congress, Democrats said they are concerned that if a vacancy comes into the Supreme Court Bush will appoint more conservative judges, which could upset the current ideological balance and possibly make way to over turn past legislation, such as Roe v. Wade.
“There’s no vacancy for the Supreme Court,” Bush said. “And I will deal with a vacancy when there is one … I told the people on the campaign trail that I’ll pick somebody that knows the difference between personal opinion and the strict interpretation of the law.”
Stem-cell research, another controversial issue, was approved a $3 billion research effort involving human embryonic stem cells in California. This will be the largest state-run scientific research effort in the country. California’s republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, broke away from President Bush and the California Republican Party’s platform position on this issue and supported the measure. The Bush administration has placed restrictions on using federal money for such research.
Post-election, several Democrats said that their candidates needed to reach evangelical Christian voters, who overwhelmingly supported President Bush.
“With 120 million people voting, at some point it’s got to settle in with us that there are just more of them than there are of us,” one Democratic operative told USA Today. “My greatest fear now is we’re going to turn the guns on each other,” he added.
President Bush has not yet confirmed who he will release or add to his cabinet for his second term.
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