Voter Participation in the US

Part
01
of three
Part
01

Voter Participation

The voter participation of 18-29 years old in the 2020 presidential elections is estimated to be much higher than the last elections. As per US Census Bureau data, while the voting rate of the young people has overall declined since 1968, their voting participation has increased since the year 2000. The US Census Bureau or the US Election Project website has not yet updated the final voting rate data for the 2020 elections. Hence, we have provided the estimates available for the same. By aggregating data from the various official sources, we have presented below a detailed overview of how voter participation across various age groups has varied in US presidential elections over time.

US Voter Participation By Age Over Time

  • As per estimates from the CIRCLE research center at Tufts University, the turnout rate of young voters increased in the 2020 US presidential elections and was much higher as compared to the 2016 elections. According to CIRCLE's estimates based on votes counted as of November 18, nearly 52%-55% of voting-eligible young people, aged 18-29 years, cast a ballot in the 2020 election as compared to estimates of 42-44% in 2016.
  • Further, CIRCLE expects the final percentage of youth turnout in the 2020 presidential elections (once the numbers are finalized) to rise to around 53%-56% as compared to 45%-48% estimated in 2016. Additionally, the youth vote also had more weight overall in 2020. The electorate share of people aged 18-29 years is expected to be around 17% in 2020 as compared to 16% in 2016.
  • The US Census Bureau provides historical voter turnout data for people aged 18-24 years in various presidential elections from 1968 to 2016. The final numbers for the 2020 election have not yet been updated. The above graph depicts these numbers in greater detail. The underlying data can be viewed here.
  • As per the US Census Bureau data for voting participation in various presidential elections, the voting rate for people aged 18-24 years has declined from 50.4% in 1968 to 39.4% in 2016. However, since 2000, their voting rate increased from 32.3% to 39.4% in 2016. The same is also true for the 25-44 years age group. Their voting participation went down from 66.6% in 1968 to 49% in 2016. However, since 2000, their voting rate has remained stable (49.8% in 2000 to 49% in 2016).
  • For those aged 45 to 64 years, the voting rate went down from 74.9% in 1968 to 61.7% in 2016. This age group has seen a constant decline in their voting participation. Since 2000, the voting rate for this age group has declined from 64.1% to 61.7%. On the other hand, the 65+ age group is the only one to have witnessed a surge in their voting participation since 1968. The voting rate of this group in the US presidential elections has increased from 65.8% in 1968 to 68.4% in 2016. For most of the primary elections, their voting rate has remained in the high 60s and has stabilized in the 67%-69% range since 2000.
  • Overall, since 1964, voter turnout rates in U.S. presidential elections have generally decreased across all age groups, except for those over the age of 65. From 1988 onwards, voter participation has increased with age across the various age brackets. This is primarily because people are more likely to vote as they become old. Participation "among eligible voters under the age of 25 is the lowest of all age groups, and in the 1996 and 2000 elections, fewer than one-third (33%) of eligible voters under the age of 25 participated, compared with more than two-thirds (66%) of voters over 65 years."
  • An interactive graph of the voter turnout rates among selected age groups in US presidential elections from 1964 to 2016 can be viewed on Statista. A snapshot of the same can be accessed here.
  • The US Election Project website provides detailed historical data on the overall voter turnout rates in primary and mid-term elections for different age groups based on Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. This data is reported after adjusting it for sampling and no-response errors. The detailed time-series data can be accessed from the 'Age' tab of the provided spreadsheet. However, the age groups reported in the same vary slightly (18-29 years instead of 18-24 years). The below two graphs represent the voting rates data and trends by age group as provided by the US Census Bureau.
Part
02
of three
Part
02

Trends Impacting Voter Participation

The research provides three trends that impact voters' participation in the US presidential election. These trends highlight key aspects associated with young voters who were in the age group between 18 and 24 years. Findings are mainly drawn from research on the voters who were 18-29 years old and who belong to the Generation Z population. The youth of color and the concern over social issues were the main factors leading to the increased participation of young voters.

Phenomenal Participation by Youth of Color

  • The 2020 presidential election has seen increased participation by young voters, especially youth of color, who have shown strong support to the president-elect, Joe Biden.
  • In comparison to the 2016 election, youth participation in the 2020 election increased from 42%-44% to 52%-55% of voting-eligible young people in the US. The eligible young voters are referred to as those who were between 18 and 29 years old, according to statistics released on November 18, 2020. The final youth participation rate in voting was expected to reach 53%-56%.
  • The percentage of young voters of the electorate increased from 16% in 2016 to 17% in 2020, which indicates a marginally higher participation rate of youth. Among young voters, Latino (73%) and black (87%) youth have demonstrated a significantly higher participation rate than their white peers. In the past twenty years, there was an increasing trend of young voters aged between 18 and 29 years who support the Democratic party.
  • In key states, such as Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Arizona, the participation rate of the youth of color was noticeably high (more than 75%) and contributed to the success of Joe Biden.

Public Health and Social Justice Issues Matter Most to Generation Z

  • Among a series of social issues that concern young people (Generation Z and millennial population), public health (COVID-19) and racial justice (systemic racism) were the major issues, which young voters worry about.
  • More than 80% of young people have supported the racial justice movement in early 2020. According to a pre-election poll in July 2020, 79% of young voters (18-29 years old) agreed that the COVID-19 global pandemic lets them realize that the decisions of political leaders affect their daily life.
  • Facing these interconnected, complex social issues, Generation Z voters (those who were 18-23 years old) attempt to address these concerns in a progressive manner. Despite being the most diverse generation in US history, Generation Z voters have demonstrated what they value most, regarding social issues. How the Republican party and Trump administration have handled social issues were an antithesis to what Generation Z values.

Lack of Trust in Voting Process Undermines Participation

  • As 2020 was the first time for many young voters to participate in the presidential election, they have limited experience in the voting process and have shown concerns over the security and integrity of the democratic process.
  • The lack of trust in the voting process results from the foreign interference in the 2016 election and the increased use of mail-in ballots in the time of COVID-19. In the pre-election poll conducted in summer 2020, only 24% of young voters have experience with voting via mail, which likely caused their concern over the democratic voting process.
  • "73% of young white voters and 68% of young voters of color were either “not too confident” or just “somewhat confident” that votes would be counted accurately in 2020." This indicates that most young voters have some form of doubt over the security and integrity of the election process, which is expected to have a negative impact on the participation of young voters.
Part
03
of three
Part
03

Organizations Helping Increase Voter Participation

The top organizations that are helping to increase voter participation in the 18-24-year-old age cohort include NextGen America, Tok the Vote, and Black Lives Matter. NextGen America sent about 28 million text messages and made about 10 million calls mostly to young people requesting them to participate in the vote. Organizations associated with democratic causes, such as Black Lives Matter had caused a surge in voter registrations, volunteer activity, and donations in the US. Tok the Vote highlighted that it seeks to empower Gen Z to vote and to encourage the youth in leadership to push for progress.

Top Organizations

NextGen America

  • NextGen America indicated that in 2020, the organization had its teams in about 11 battleground states having millions of peer-to-peer conversations with the young people. Information on NextGen America's activities in each of these states can be found here.
  • The organization reported that during the 2020 US elections, it sent about 28 million text messages and made about 10 million calls to young people requesting them to participate in the vote.

Black Lives Matter

TikTok



Research proposal:

Only the project owner can select the next research path.
Need related research? Let's launch your next project!
Sources
Sources