Iowa ranked highest of the 50 states in the percentage of its young people to turn out to vote in the last presidential election, according to a new federal report.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Monday that 63 percent of Iowa's eligible voters between the ages of 18 and 24 cast ballots in the Nov. 4 election.

Nationwide, the report said, 49 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted. In Illinois, it was 50 percent.

The closest state to Iowa in turnout for 18- to 24-year-olds was Minnesota, at 62 percent, a statistically insignificant difference, the Census Bureau said.

Youth turnout was a focus of last year's election because President Barack Obama's campaign was particularly appealing to young people.

That was evident in Iowa, where caucuses kicked off the election season. More young people than ever took part in those.

"I think the momentum carried itself through," said Michael Mauro, Iowa's secretary of state.

Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, said there are cultural reasons to explain the higher turnout, too. He noted the numbers in the upper Midwest are higher than the rest of the country.

The center, based at Tufts University, tracks voting trends.

Youth turnout in Iowa has been rising in recent elections, and not just among 18- to 24-year-olds.

In fact, the biggest jump in the state last year appears to be the 25-to-34 age group.

Mauro's office issued a report this spring showing nearly 30,000 more Iowans ages 25 to 34 voted in 2008 than in 2004.

The increase came from Democratic and unaffiliated voters. The Republican turnout in the age group declined, the secretary of state's report said.

Nationwide, the 18-to-24 group was the only age group to show a statistically significant increase in voting last year over four years earlier, the Census Bureau said.

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Older voters, however, remained the most prone to go to the ballot box, both nationwide and in Iowa, it said.

Nearly 79 percent of 65- to 74-year-olds in Iowa voted in the last election, followed by 73 percent of those between the ages of 45 and 64. Seventy percent of Iowans 75 years and up voted. Of those in the 25-to-44 age group, 65 percent voted.

Minorities also saw a higher turnout across the country.

Voting rates for blacks, Hispanics and Asians were four points higher than in 2004. For non-Hispanic whites, the rate went up 1 percent.

"The 2008 presidential election saw a significant increase in voter turnout among young people, blacks and Hispanics," said Thom File, a voting analyst with the bureau.

Because of declines in some other groups, overall turnout was about the same in 2008 as 2004, the bureau said.

Turnout in Iowa's eligible voting age population was 70 percent last year, up slightly from 68.8 percent in 2004, the study said. Iowa ranked fifth in overall turnout nationwide.

The Census Bureau report did not have any reliable voting figures for minorities in Iowa.

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