The Expected Turnout of Young Voters is Surprising


A new PRRI/The Atlantic survey on civic engagement finds stark gaps within different age groups’ attitudes toward the utility of voting and other methods of civic engagement. The survey shows little evidence that younger Americans will turn out at historic rates in the upcoming midterms.

Low Rates of Voter Participation from Young Americans
Just 35 percent of young Americans (ages 18-29), compared to 81 percent of seniors (ages 65+) and 55 percent of all Americans, say they are absolutely certain to vote in the November elections.

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“Just 20 percent of young Americans made it to the polls in the last midterm election, and we’re seeing some cynicism among young people about the efficacy of voting as a means of social change,” noted PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “But if younger voters turn out even at modest rates, it could tilt the scales significantly in favor of Democratic candidates, who they support over Republican candidates by a margin of 61 percent to 35 percent.”

The Link Between Civic Engagement and Social Change
Young Americans are less likely than seniors to say voting regularly in elections is the most effective way to create change (50 percent vs. 78 percent).

Young Americans are more likely than seniors to believe that volunteering for a group or cause (19 percent vs. 4 percent) or being active online (9 percent vs. 1 percent) are the best way to create change.

Feelings about State of Country
Twenty-eight percent of young women, compared to just 18 percent of young men, report feeling afraid about the state of the country. Young men are more likely than young women to say they feel hopeful (20 percent vs. 13 percent) or content (12 percent vs. 6 percent).

Other Report Findings:

  • Seventy-two percent of Americans, including 70 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans, say they often feel like they need a break from the news.
  • Forty-eight percent of Americans say their civic and political engagement has not changed since 2016.
  • Sixty-two percent of Americans, including 70 percent of young Americans and 52 percent of seniors, say they view President Trump unfavorably.
  • Americans are most likely to say that health care is a critical issue to them (58 percent), with gun policy (46 percent) and immigration (46 percent) among their other concerns.

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