Remember when it was de rigueur to characterize Generation Y as apathetic and politically ignorant? Not anymore. 44 million of them (21% of the U.S. voting population) will be eligible to vote next November and there's strong evidence that they'll head to polls in droves.
According to research from the Center for Information on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and Rock the Vote, steady declines in the youth vote began to turn around in 2004 and 2006, when turnout among that age group spiked 9% in the general election and 3% in the midterms compared to four years prior. That's more than double and triple the increased turnout rates among voters in other age groups. CIRCLE also reports equally dramatic increases in the youth vote in the New Hampshire and Iowa primaries and in at least seven of the Super Tuesday states. So, yes, Gen Y is doing more than just adding their names to supporters lists on the candidates' Facebook pages; they're out there pulling the levers.
I'll be visiting the CIRCLE website frequently to keep an eye on youth voting numbers as the contests continue. And, just for fun, I'm checking out those Facebook pages as well. Supporter tallies as of this morning: Obama: 797,858; Clinton: 151,823; McCain: 118,992.
Lastly, if you're still on the fence about who you're voting for in November, I've come across two websites that are designed to help you choose. Both were started by Gen Y entrepreneurs. VoteGopher.com compares the candidates on a variety of issues and provides succinct summaries of their positions; and Glassbooth.org quizzes you about your positions on a number of hot topics then tells you which candidate is most closely aligned with your views. The results might surprise you! BTW, I first learned about Glassbooth.com on one of my new favorite blogs about young entrepreneurs, CollegeMogul.com.
DONNA FENN | Inc.com Contributing Editor
Donna Fenn is the author of Upstarts! How GenY Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.