One of the most exciting things coming off of election night was watching gangs of teenagers running through my neighborhood banging pots and cheering about Obama’s win. I’d never seen anything like it. Courtney’s here to talk concretely about the youth turnout in this election and what that may mean for the future of American politics. –Kristen

There was a lot of skepticism leading up to the election about young people. Many pundits talked about the usual pattern regarding youth enthusiasm about politics…it starts out with a bang and ends with a whimper. In other words, young people usually talk a big game, but then don’t actually show up to the polls in expected numbers.

Well this year was different. Plain and simple. Pew Research Center has just released a report titled, Young Voters in the 2008 Election and it’s chock-full of exciting news about the ways in which young people walked their talk this unprecedented election season. Some of the highlights:

• This year, 66% of those under age 30 voted for Barack Obama making the disparity between young voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since exit polling began in 1972.

• Among voters ages 18-29, a 19-point gap now separates Democratic party affiliation (45%) and Republican affiliation (26%).

• Just 62% of voters age 18-29 identify as white, while 18% are black and 14% Hispanic. Four years ago, this age group was 68% white. In 2000, nearly three-quarters (74%) of young voters were white.

There is all sorts of intriguing data coming out of the November 4th showing of young people, but perhaps most exciting is the inkling that a whole generation is shifting left like never before. There is real evidence that young people who have been galvanized by an Obama presidency are poised to concretize a real, solid progressive youth movement.

I’ve written about this before, but it bears saying again. In order to capitalize on the exciting youth movement that has been ignited by Obama’s presidency, progressives need to put some serious money behind a youth-directed, Democratic political machine. It’s as if we’ve all been given a golden opportunity—an inspiring leader who understood the importance of grassroots and netroots organizing. Now it’s time to run with our blessing.

Word on the street is that The American Prospect Online is working on a big story on how to transfer the Obama enthusiasm into a sustainable youth movement. Stay tuned for the link and analysis…

–Courtney Martin