In November 2008, 658,000 Americans under 30 voted in New Jersey and 782,000 did so in Virginia. In November 2009, 212,000 Americans under 30 voted in New Jersey and 198,000 did so in Virginia. In other words, young-voter turnout this year was down two-thirds in New Jersey and three-quarters in Virginia.
These numbers are extrapolations from exit poll results and should be regarded as approximate and not precise. But they tell a vivid story, and one with scary implications for both Democratic and Republican political strategists.
The scary story for Republicans was plain a year ago. Young voters went 66 percent to 32 percent for Barack Obama, while voters over 30 went for Obama by only 50 percent to 49 percent. Some analysts projected an enduringly Democratic Millennial Generation that would send the Republican Party the way of the Whigs.
But that future obviously didn't arrive last week, and it doesn't seem likely to arrive in November 2010. Young voters cast 441,000 votes for Obama in New Jersey but only 121,000 for Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine, who brought Obama into the state five times and featured him in his TV ads.
Young voters cast 469,000 votes for Obama in Virginia and provided him with 70 percent of his statewide plurality, but they only cast 87,000 votes for the hapless Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds. Republican Bob McDonnell actually carried the young vote 54 percent to 44 percent.
A drop-off in young turnout is normal in off-year elections. But this drop-off was enormous. Evidently the aura of candidate Obama was a lot more attractive to young Americans than the policies of President Obama and the roughly similar policies of the Democratic candidates in New Jersey and Virginia.
This is a generation accustomed to making its own choices and shaping its own world. They listen to their own iPod playlists, not someone else's Top 40; they construct their own Facebook pages rather than enlisting in the official Elvis Fan Club.
Democrats' policies are not in sync with this mentality. They seek a government-run health care regimen, in which young Americans will be forced to sign up for expensive insurance to subsidize older people with more health problems. They seek to jam employees into labor unions, who will insist on 5,000 pages of work rules and rigid seniority systems.