Young Voters could Decide the Midterm Elections

Washington, DC -Two months before the midterm elections, a new analysis of historical midterm election data points to the potential importance of the youth vote in November. Nearly half of the 42 million eligible young voters aged 18 to 29 showed up for the 2004 presidential election, representing the highest level of youth voter participation in more than a decade, but they still remain a largely untapped and misunderstood voting population. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) compiled data on the midterm cycles nationwide – and by state – since 1974 to get a sense of what the nation might expect this fall. In the most recent midterm election in 2002, 22 percent of young adults voted. However, the best comparison to this year’s election may be the 1994 midterm, because it was the last midterm to follow a similar surge in youth voting. In 1994, 26 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds voted. “The increased mobilization efforts to get young people to the polls in 2004 likely contributed to the spike in young voters. The level of mobilization will be lower this year, but probably at least as high as it was in 2002. All political parties should work to mobilize this large group of potential voters,” said Peter Levine, director of CIRCLE. “We did see additional increases in turnout in student-dense precincts in 2005 local and state elections. And we now know from experimental studies that mobilization in one election still motivates people in the next election.” As for partisanship among young Americans, in a poll CIRCLE conducted this summer, young people were more likely than adults 30 and older to identify as strictly independents (26 percent vs. 18 percent) and less likely to identify as Republicans (28 percent vs. 35 percent). Compared to 2002, a somewhat increased amount of young adults are identifying as Independents (up 2 points) though slightly less identify themselves as Democrats (down 1 point).