The Kids Are Alright — And They’re Voting in the Midterms, Study Finds

Report shows young people planning to vote in historic numbers in 2018

Guests watch the last presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during a watch party at Capitol Lounge on Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, October 19, 2016. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Young people, who typically sit out midterm elections, are planning to vote in potentially historic numbers in 2018, according to a report released Tuesday from Tufts University.

People ages 18 to 24 are also receiving more campaign outreach and paying closer attention this year, potentially matching the run-up to the 2016 presidential election, according to a report from the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University. 

“There has been repeated skepticism about young people and their intent to actually come out to vote,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the center’s director. “It’s been really surprising to see even the teenagers express as much enthusiasm around voting.” 

If the trend plays out, it would defy predictions of a precipitous drop-off in young voters after 2016, when millennials and Generation X voters outnumbered baby boomers and older generations at the ballot box for the first time ever.

It could also help boost chances for Democrats, who have seen surges in overall voter enthusiasm after President Trump’s surprise victory in 2016. Young voters are typically more liberal, though they resist identifying with either party.

The survey of 2,087 people ages 18 to 24 found 34 percent were extremely likely to vote. Forty-five percent of those voters said they would vote for Democrats, versus 26 percent for Republicans.

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Those results varied widely among demographic groups. Black and Latino youth were much more likely to support Democratic candidates, while young white men favored Republicans, and unaffiliated white youth spread their support across various parties and ideologies, the study found. 

The center’s 2016 pre-election poll found that 40 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds were “extremely likely” to vote, and subsequent post-election analysis found that number to have been generally predictive of turnout as calculated by other sources, the report said.

This year’s midterms have attracted an extraordinary amount of media attention, the report noted, inspiring a significant amount of activism driven by and geared toward young people.

In addition, contact by campaigns is unusually high for midterms and comparable to 2016, it found.

One-third of young people reported being contacted before the end of September, which mirrors the center’s 2016 findings. The poll found young people who reported having been contacted by a candidate’s campaign or another organization supporting candidates are more likely to say they will vote than those who have not been contacted, a difference of 49 percent to 28 percent.

The center planned to release a report Thursday outlining findings that explain the uptick in youth voter interest.

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