Historically, politicians have ignored youth voices because they don’t show up to the polls. But new data shows that might be changing.
When it comes to voting, younger adults aren’t exactly known for their reliability, especially when compared with older populations. In 2016, the Census Bureau notes just 46.1% of Americans between ages 18 and 29 reported voting (58.7% of people 30 to 44, 66.6% of people 45 to 64, and 70.9% of citizens over 65 reported voting).
Knowing this, you almost can’t blame politicians for putting the interests of older generations ahead of issues that might have more of an effect on the young, such as climate change. But there’s reason to believe the youth are waking up, and they understand this is their country. If they want to shape the future, they need to participate in the democratic process.
What makes 2018 different from other years? It might just be the response to the Feb. 14, 2018, Parkland school shooting.
A data analysis from TargetSmart published July 19, 2018, found that voter registration among people ages 18 to 29 has had a pretty substantial spike since the Parkland shooting.
The group looked at the voter registration data of 39 states (some states don’t make this data accessible to the public), comparing new registrations before and after Parkland. Across the country, the share of new would-be first-time voters went up 2.16%. But what’s really interesting is what’s changing on a state-by-state basis — especially in states with senate races coming up this November.
Arizona experienced an 8.2% increase, Florida 8%, Virginia 10.5%, Indiana 9.9%, and New York 10.7%. Pennsylvania saw a 16% jump in youth registrants (in the period before Parkland, 18- to 29-year-olds made up just 45.2% of new voters, compared with 61.4% after).
“We can’t possibly know for sure if Parkland caused the increase, but the circumstantial evidence would suggest it played a significant role,” writes TargetSmart CEO Tom Bonier in an email.
Registering is an important first step, but it’s not the finish.
None of this matters if people don’t actually get out and vote in November 2018. Recent polling paints a slightly different picture than TargetSmart’s analysis seems to show. For example, in June, a PRRI/Atlantic poll found that only 28% of adults under 30 are “absolutely certain” to vote this fall. Compared with senior citizens, where 74% said they were sure to vote, that’s not exactly promising for the younger generation.
And, sure, you, my dear reader, already know this: Voting is important. There are groups out there trying to increase turnout — just 36.7% of eligible voters cast a ballot in the 2014 midterms — such as the Michelle Obama-led, nonpartisan When We All Vote campaign.
No matter what your political views are: Get out and vote this November.
Democracy works best when we all participate, and the stakes are too high to just let 36.7% of Americans decide our future, right? If you’re not registered to vote, you can hop over to When We All Vote to learn how to do it. If you’re already registered to vote — first off, congratulations, that’s awesome — you can get even more involved by helping get your friends, family, neighbors, mail carrier, casual acquaintance, and anyone else registered.