Dec 14, 2019

Young voters' value in 2020 swing states

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Afro Newspaper/Gado/Getty Contributor

Young voters in battleground states will be a key target for 2020 candidates.

Why it matters: Youth voter turnout has consistently been the lowest of any age group since the Census Bureau began tracking the metric. But Democratic efforts to drive record youth turnout in swing states, if successful, could block President Trump from a second term — especially if the race is as close as 2016.

What to watch: If Gen Z's surge of interest in issues like gun control and climate change translates to higher turnout rates, it could make all the difference in hotly contested swing states.

  • 2016 voters ages 18-29 were the only age group to show an increase in turnout compared to 2012. It went up by 1.1%, U.S. Census data shows.
  • In 2018, voter turnout among people ages 18-29 grew from 20% to 36%.

In key states:

  • Early voting for 18–29 year olds in Texas increased fivefold in the 2018 elections.
  • 18–29 year olds in Nevada also turned out at five times the rate they did in 2014.
  • Youth turnout surged in Florida's midterms, where 37% of 18–29 year olds hit the polls, compared to 22% in 2014.
  • NextGen estimates 80,000 additional 18–35 year olds in Wisconsin turned out in 2018 compared to 2014.

But other states fell short in 2018. Pennsylvania organizers hoped for a historic youth turnout, but only saw incremental gains compared to previous midterms, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

  • Young voters in Ohio also showed an increase during the last midterm, reaching 22% turnout. But WOSU notes the turnout still lags compared to neighboring states.

Go deeper:

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Young people are outnumbered and outvoted by older generations

Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Despite the hype around young Americans' civic activism and record voter turnout in 2018, the voting power of young people is shrinking.

The big picture: On top of young adults being less likely to show up at the polls, the number of people under 25 who are even eligible to vote has fallen, according to a Census data analysis by Brookings Institution's William Frey.

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How the U.S. falls short on teaching students about civics

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: William C. Shrout/Getty Contributor

While the majority of American high school students receive some education in civics, only 26 states met the standards for a “full curriculum" in civics according to research published Saturday by the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Why it matters: Many recent graduates will be eligible to vote for the first time in 2020 and an education in civics is linked to higher civic participation — including voting.

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Deep Dive: 2020's new voters will usher in an age of demographic transformation

Data: Census Bureau 2017 Population projections. Note: Data includes non-citizens, who would not be eligible to vote; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

First-time 2020 voters will usher in a wave of demographic transformation — a remaking of the American identity that's projected to crest in the 2040s.

What’s happening: Millions of Generation Z Americans— those born after 1996 —will be able to vote for the first time next year. The 2020 census, redistricting and elections will begin to reveal population changes that will empower new voices and reshuffle the swing-state map and both parties' bases.