There's been a lot of talk about the impact of “demographics” on this year's election, with most of the emphasis leaning heavily toward the increased clout of minorities, or – as GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan put it – “urban” voters.
And there's no doubt that a big turnout of Latino and black voters helped tilt the outcome in contests across the country.
But another big demographic group that weighed in this year was younger voters.
Unlike a lot of old, white voters, young voters apparently look to the future when they cast their vote. In California, they were given a large part of the credit for the near-miraculous passage of Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative.
Prop. 30, which will temporarily raise the state sales tax for all and the income tax for high earners, won with 54 percent of the vote. But young voters – those between 18 and 29 – supported the initiative with about 66 percent of their votes, according to exit polling.
Had it been up to voters age 45 and older, Prop. 30 would have failed with less than 50 percent of the older vote, polling showed.
This trend bodes well for California. While old, white voters whose children have finished school become less and less inclined to support education and infrastructure improvements in the Golden State, younger and minority voters are bucking that trend.
This isn't an issue of “takers” and “givers,” as Mitt Romney suggested in his speech about the “47 percent” of Americans who consume the government services paid for by the rest. It's about recognizing needs, and being willing to provide government with the resources to meet those needs.
Education was the centerpiece of the campaign for Prop. 30. Its failure would have meant huge cuts to public schools in California, equivalent to losing three weeks of classroom instruction and forcing further cuts and/or fee hikes at state colleges and universities. Younger voters – including those attending college and young parents with children in public schools – responded at the voting booth.