The Newest Southerners: Generational Differences in Electoral Behavior in the Contemporary South

Charles Prysby


Young voters contributed disproportionately to Barack Obama’s presidential victory in 2012. In fact, if the electorate had been limited to those over 30 years old, Mitt Romney might be in the White House today. Obama captured 60 percent of the vote of those under 30, compared to 49 percent of those over 30, according to the national exit polls (Schier and Box- Steffensmeier 2013, 86). A similar pattern characterized the 2008 presidential election: Obama won 66 percent of the vote among those aged 29 or less, but under one-half of voters older than 45 (Pomper 2010, 53). The tendency for younger voters to be disproportionately Democratic emerged in the 2004 presidential election. Prior to that, Democratic presidential candidates did not consistently do better among younger voters. In 2000, for example, Al Gore did as well among older voters as he did among younger voters, and in 1992, Bill Clinton did his best among older voters, as did Walter Mondale in 1984 and Michael Dukakis in 1988 (Pomper 2001, 138; Pomper 1989, 133). 

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