There is a powerful myth deeply engrained in the minds of the pundits that swarm America's cable television screens.
That myth is that young voters are somehow not as enthusiastic about voting in 2012 as they were in 2008, and that college students in particular are just going to sit around in their dorm rooms and play Halo 4 (to be released on election day) rather than vote.
This myth, at least in North Carolina, is directly contradicted by the facts. The hard early voting numbers say that far from decreasing, there is a distinct surge above and beyond 2008 in early turnout among young voters.
What do the facts say?
Well, in In-Person One-Stop Early Voting turnout is up by 30.4% for voters age 18-29 as a whole. But among the very youngest voters - age 18-24, turnout is up by even more - 39.7%. For the population as a whole, turnout is up by 32.9%.
The graph below shows the total number of ballots cast by age. You can see the spike at the very beginning. That is the surge of college students voting. Obviously, turnout is also up among older voters. You can see that the peak voting age in 2012 is a bit higher than in 2008. At least in part, that is just a reflection of the fact that the population as a whole is getting older.
Now let's look at the percent increase in turnout by age:
What we see is very interesting. The spike in college-aged voters is clearly evident. The rate of increased turnout above 2008 is highest for college-age voters, until you get to senior citizens. In between, for voters age 25-29 and for middle aged voters generally, the increase is not as strong. And then of course are the seniors. Part of the increase in senior voting is from White Republicans, who are older than the general population. But part of the increase also comes from increased turnout among older White Democrats and Minorities.
But back to the young people - what is perhaps even more impressive about the increase in turnout among college-aged voters is that UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, NC-State, and presumably some other universities have been on Fall Break during at least part of the early vote period (according to commenters kayak58 and dean4ever, among others). So, many students were not even in-state, much less on campus!
If there is any age group that can be called "unenthusiastic" about voting, it's not young voters - and most certainly not the youngest of the young voters (college students). It's middle-aged voters. But still, voting is up at least to some extent among all age categories.
College-aged voters are clearly very enthusiastic about voting in North Carolina. Turnout is also up among voters age 25-29, although not by nearly so much. Because most of these voters do not live on college campuses, and because many have recently moved, it can be harder for campaigns to find them and turn them out.
These young voters are neither likely voters nor unlikely voters; they are actual voters. Further, I'll venture to guess that almost none of them have landlines, all of them have cell phones, and CNN did not think to ask them what they thought of the debate last night.
Young voters are of critical importance, especially in North Carolina, where President Obama won 74% support from voters age 18-29 in 2008 (so the exit polls tell us).
155,602 people voted on Monday in NC, compared to 146,425 on the same Monday in 2008. Obama received an estimated 1,507 fewer votes than on the same Monday in 2008, while Romney received an estimated 10,684 more votes. Overall, turnout at this point is up 30.7% above the same time in 2008. However, as we have seen on previous days, the vote totals have tended to increase as more votes are reported by counties. If that continues to happen, these numbers may go up further.
Click on the picture below for a full sized chart.
For those who have been following these diaries for a few days now, this may start to sound like a broken record - but turnout continues to be up among White Republicans:
And at the same time, turnout is up among minority Voters and White Democrats.
The cumulative vote margin continues to roughly track 2008:
But the daily vote margin chart shows a slight fall off yesterday from 2008. This may be due to slow reporting by counties. We'll have to wait and see what happens, but perhaps the voting so far was just too high and too good to be true.
The cumulative vote percentage chart shows the vote percentages for Obama. Even though higher GOP turnout is being cancelled out by higher Dem turnout in terms of vote margins, the percentages are dragged down a bit:
And the daily vote percentage chart shows the same thing:
Bottom line: Turnout continues to be up above 2008 levels in NC. On Monday, it showed signs that it might not continue to be quite so far up as it has been so far, but we'll have to wait and see if more votes are reported. Obama continues to expand his vote margin above Romney in early voting, even though Republican early voting turnout is up above 2008. As more data has come in from previous days, Obama has improved his margins on those previous days from what was originally reported.
Previous NC Early Voting Diaries:
9:00 AM PT:Update - Since people are interested in the age 65+ voters, here is their breakdown by race and party. Given the large numbers of African Americans and Democrats in their midst, I don't think we should be all that worried that these particular seniors are voting:
African American: 44,519
Other Minorities: 8,472
White Dem: 51,716
White GOP: 53,020
White Unaffiliated: 25,947
White Libertarian: 70