Last year young voters were a big key to Democratic success in North Carolina. Exit polls showed 74% of them voting for Barack Obama, and his coattails helped Bev Perdue and Kay Hagan each win 71% of their support as well.
Voters under 30 in the state have always tended to be more progressive, but last year was something completely new. In 2004 John Kerry won 56% of their votes and Erskine Bowles got 57%.
A big question then becomes whether last year's results are a permanent predictor of how young people in North Carolina are going to vote, or whether it was a one time blip due to Obama's presence on the ballot that's not transferable to other elections.
Our polling data from the last three months would indicate that it's the latter case: younger voters are pretty Democratic, but not nearly to the extent the 2008 election results indicated.
51% of voters under 30 identify as Democrats to 29% as Republicans and 21% as independents.
Looking specifically at the 2010 Senate race, 44% of them say they'll support a generic Democratic candidate to 29% supporting Richard Burr. Allocate the undecideds and you have the Democrat leading 60-40, an indication that the 2004 results in the state among young people are probably more reflective of the permanent reality than what happened last fall.
A lot of attention has been paid to the impact that decreased black turnout might have on North Carolina's races next year but young people could be just as important to watch not just in terms of the quantity that turn out but also whether they're really as monolithically Democratic as last year's numbers indicated.
His potential ability to generate turnout and support from young people is one of Cal Cunningham's strongest selling points as a possible Senate candidate.