Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

Youth vote’s overwhelming opposition doomed marriage and voting amendments

youth on election night
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Youth in Minnesota voted in record numbers Tuesday.

A few months ago, some Minnesota progressives could be heard fretting about Barack Obama’s seeming failure to energize and mobilize young voters this year the way his campaign did in 2008. A low youth turnout would be felt ballot-wide.

In the end, the president’s ever-more-sophisticated voter targeting operation did rouse new voters, but in Minnesota, the two proposed constitutional amendments also contributed, according to numbers crunched by the grass-roots student advocacy group Minnesota Public Interest Research Group (MPIRG).

Youth in Minnesota voted in record numbers Tuesday, and overwhelmingly against both amendments, according to MPIRG’s tabulations.

Some 79 percent voted against the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and 69 percent voted against the proposed voting amendment, compared with 54 percent of the state voting no on the marriage amendment and 52 on the voting measure. (These totals include voters who left their ballots unmarked on the questions, effectively voting no.)

“This represents a substantial generational divide,” the group said Thursday in a statement. “As both amendments failed on such narrow margins, it is clear that students were a deciding factor.”

How do they know? They plugged raw numbers from 24 precincts on or adjacent to college campuses, including the nine where MPIRG is active, into a spreadsheet, which they then compared with ’08’s tallies.  

At three Minneapolis precincts drawing mostly University of Minnesota students, turnout was up: 2-4 saw an increase of 8.1 percent; 2-10 (the old 2-11) saw a 2.7 percent bump and Dinkytown’s 3-1 drew an increase of 8.3 percent. 

Opposition to the amendments was softest precisely in the Greater Minnesota regions where one would expect, at St. Cloud State University and St. John’s University and at the Minnesota States in Mankato and Moorhead.

MPIRG analysis shows youth vote key to amendments’ defeat

The youth vote’s opposition exceeded state averages by 26 points on the marriage amendment and 15 points on the voting amendment, according to the advocacy group’s analysis of 24 college-area voting precincts.
PrecinctCollege% No marriage% No voter ID
   W-03 P-07Minnesota State University - Mankato65.8858.21
   W-05 P-06Minnesota State University - Mankato72.8556.11
   W-2 P-5AConcordia College73.255.71
   W-3 P-6AMinnesota State University - Moorhead78.260.35
   W-2 P-03Dinktytown82.2880.63
   W-2 P-04Dinktytown87.7376.72
   W-2 P-07Dinktytown83.3981.68
   W-2 P-10UoM - TC81.3468.29
   W-3 P-01UoM - TC84.3471.63
   W-3 P-02Augsburg87.7880.67
St. Peter
   W-2 P-1Gustavus Adolphus College78.5469.94
St. Paul
   W-3 P-07Macalester93.1189.09
   W-4 P-06St Kate's71.2260.07
   W-4 P-13Hamline76.0775.33
   W-1 P-1Carleton College95.2390.47
   W-4 P-2St Olaf89.8182.27
   P-10UoM - Duluth76.3269.37
   P2Saint John's University72.2656.53
St. Cloud
   W1 P1St Cloud State University76.1860.96
   W1 P3St Cloud State University73.2460.56
   W1 P7St Cloud State University60.7557.91
   P-2BUoM - Morris79.4675.05
   W-3 P-1Winona State University73.5255.45
Average all college pcts78.869.3
Statewide average52.453.6
Source: Minnesota Public Interest Research Group

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Related Tags:

About the Author:

Comments (14)

Thank you, students !

It appears we couldn't have done it without you.

We'll need you again in future, so stay tuned.

Amazing organization

Once again we see the impact of well-thought out campaign ground games on targeted voters. Smart committed, hard-working people ran and staffed campaigns this year and truly had an impact.

Small correction

Awesome stuff. There is one small issue with the article: the Vote No percentages are transposed. It should be 52% no on marriage and 54% no on ID. Easy fix though.


The GOP in the last election became the party of old men. Women of all ages and the young under 30 went for Obama. These amendments were pushed by the right wing of the GOP which translates into the party of old men. The GOP leadership realizes it needs to broaden its base especially since the US demographics continue to change.

Social Networks Affect Voter Turnout

Friend One: I VOTED NO!
Friend Two: OMG today is election day???
Friend Three: Yeah, they want to limit gays the freedom to marry
Friend Two: Really? Where do I vote?
Friend One: (Tells everyone where to vote)
Friend Five: Idiot, they are redefining marriage!
Friend Two: Why are you so bigoted?
Friend Five: I'm not bigoted. God defines marriage.
Friend Three: How can you say that
Friend Two: I'm cant be friends with people like you.

(An hour later)
Friend Two: (IYF) I VOTED NO!
Friend Seven: I VOTED NO TOO!
Friend Eight: I VOTED NO THREE!
Friend Nine: I VOTED NO FOUR!

St Thomas?

St Thomas isn't on this list. I figure their St Paul campus is mostly in W-4 P-7. Here are the results for that precinct:

No on marriage amendment: 73.79%
No on voter ID amendment: 68.13%

So slightly more liberal than the St Kate's precinct. To be expected, I suppose.

Also, and the article doesn't mention this, but it only refers to the *precinct* in which the campus sits. Those precincts also includes general population voters, not just college students. It is quite possible that these numbers would be even higher if only students were reported.

Go Carleton!

I'm so happy to see that my alma mater had the highest NO percentages on both amendments! Somewhere, Paul Wellstone is proud, too.

The youth vote

At the ripe age of 64, I'm delighted to see that I'm still counted with the "youth vote", at least on such important things as those wretched amendments. Go youth of Minnesota!!!

GOTV Voting

The last two days of the campaign I called identified supporters for Mn United for All Families; everyone I called was under the age of 43. I am 73. This amendment bridged the generations.

I worked as an election judge in Minneapolis 2-1

and we had SO many young, youngish and new or newly committed voters and same day registrants it didn't surprise me at all that turnout topped 2008. It made me very happy and very proud to see them all. It also made me very happy and proud to see how many older and variously disabled people make tremendous efforts to turn out and vote. As another of the articles here says -- give people enough time and they'll do the right thing. Young and old got informed, and realized that the "Voter ID" amendment was intended to disenfranchise, just as the "Marriage" amendment was designed to discriminate.

Most people weren't fooled. Yeah, us!

Sixty-seven and proud

of our young people.

If you want social change,

If you want social change, you need to take the time and effort to convince the people and their representatives of the justice of your cause. Eventually they'll come around, and the change that they enact will be permanent.

Youth vote

Yes, we need the youth vote. Not because WE need it, per se, but because THEY will need it when they're the ones running the joint. It's good to see them flexing their political muscles. There is a group of people between my age (not terribly old) and the present college students that I thought would never care. At least, even if those kids (now adults) don't care, the current "kids" (I'm technically old enough to be mother to some of them...*shiver*) do.

Where are the St. Thomas

Where are the St. Thomas numbers? I want to see what the consensus was with those folks.