This is certainly not the accepted narrative. According to exit polls, Republican Ken Cuccinelli defeated Democrat Terry McAuliffe by six points, 45-39, among voters aged 18-24. Libertarian candidate Robert Sarvis earned 15%, which isn’t surprising. President Obama has received overwhelming support from young voters, but that backing didn’t transfer to McAuliffe.
On a broader measure of young voters, those 18-29, McAuliffe edged Cuccinelli, but just by five points. Among this larger group, McAuliffe received 45%, Cuccinelli 40%, and Sarvis 15%. This larger group includes those voters 25-29 who likely cast their first presidential ballot in Obama’s 2008 campaign. That group seems to retain some of the glow of that campaign and McAuliffe beat Cuccinelli by 15 points among these voters.
The change in voting behavior by those younger, though, is surprising. Democrats spent millions branding Cuccinelli as too extreme and conservative for Virginians. Democrats claimed Cuccinelli was anti-gay and wanted to outlaw abortion and ban contraception, presumably messages that would appeal to young voters. These messages didn’t did take with the youngest voters, though.
It could be that these voters’ anxiety about the economy and their future trumped the Democrats’ appeals on social issues. It could also be, however, that not having been around for the first Obama election, they don’t know what all the fuss was about.
Their vote is definitely up for grabs.