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2004: Not the Year of the Youth Vote

This was not the breakout year for young voters that some had anticipated. Fewer than one in 10 voters Tuesday were 18 to 24, about the same proportion of the electorate as in 2000, exit polls indicated. Still, with voter turnout expected to be higher overall, more young people appeared to have come out.

A vigorous push on college campuses by both parties and national mobilization drives had raised expectations that 2004 would be the year of the youth vote.

Exit polls indicated that young people who did vote were strongly supporting Democrat John Kerry over President Bush, while they were evenly split between Bush and Democrat Al Gore four years ago.

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The exit polls were conducted for The Associated Press by Edison Media Research (search) and Mitofsky International (search).

First-time voters made up about 10 percent of the electorate, about the same as in 2000, and they favored Kerry. Four years ago, the group leaned toward Gore.

The economy and moral values were the top issues for young voters, with about one-fifth of those surveyed choosing each. Young people concerned about moral values strongly supported Bush, while those interested in the economy and jobs chose Kerry.

Iraq and terrorism were next on the list — with Kerry winning the Iraq vote and Bush taking the terrorism group.

"It's definitely the war," said Eliana Deutsch, 20, of San Diego (search), explaining why she came out. "People see these soldiers who are 18 and don't have an education, and they're over there dying. It's really sad that that [the military] is their best option."

Sarah White, 18, a North Palm Beach high school student in Florida who was excited about voting for the first time, went for Bush, saying, "I agree with a lot of what he stands for."

Jay Strell, a spokesman for Rock the Vote, a campaign targeting 18- to 25-year-olds, said the voter turnout among young people was impressive this year.

"The issues at stake in this election — the war in Iraq, the prospect, however remote, of a draft, the economy — are all reasons more young people came out to vote this election, " he said. "They are clearly being more impacted by the issues at stake in this election."