An analysis of youth voting in the 2022 midterms shows that voters under 30 helped drive critical Democratic wins in key swing states and suggests juicing youth turnout in 2024 could help Democrats dominate the cycle.
The report released this month by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University analyzed age-specific voter file data from 39 states and determined turnout among voters aged 18 to 29 as the percentage of all voting-eligible youth (as opposed to just registered youth) who cast a ballot.
Nationally, CIRCLE estimated that 23% of youth voters cast a ballot in 2022—a retreat from the epic 28% youth turnout in 2018 (likely driven by anti-MAGA sentiment) but still notably higher than the estimated 13% of young voters in 2014.
The states with highest turnout rates among voters under 30 included:
Notably, all of the states with high youth participation were run by Democratic governors while the states with the lowest youth turnout were mostly run by Republican governors:
Louisiana, 16% (*Democratic governor with Republican-led legislature)
Oklahoma, Indiana, and Alabama, all 15%
West Virginia, 14%
But perhaps most importantly, states with high youth turnout helped Democrats post decisive wins in several of the cycle’s most important contests. Democrats also secured roughly 55% of the vote in some of those contests—a data point Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg has made the focal point of his aspirational drive for Democrats to secure 55% of the vote nationally in 2024. In fact, in four of the six states with the highest youth turnout, Democratic candidates at the top of the ticket either neared or exceeded 55%. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz won reelection by a slightly more modest 8 points, 52.3%-44.6%. Oregon, where Democrat Tina Kotek prevailed by just over 3 points, was the outlier.
But in Michigan, for instance, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer cruised to reelection with a double-digit win, 54.5%-43.9%, over Republican Tudor Dixon. Michigan continues to shine as a model for Democrats nationwide, where Whitmer and a Democratically-controlled legislature are passing legislation around child care, gun reform, LGBTQ+ issues, and much more. It’s an example of how a fair map with newly drawn lines can practically transform a swing state in the blink of an eye in a single cycle.
In Pennsylvania, Democrat Josh Shapiro dusted his GOP Republican challenger, state senator Doug Mastriano, by a whopping 15 points, 56.5%-41.7%. Democrats also flipped the state’s Senate seat, with John Fetterman comfortably beating TV huckster Mehmet Oz by a handful of points, 51.2%-46.3%.
Based on CIRCLE’s analysis, the youth vote is proving to be a critical element in the formula for pushing Democratic wins into another stratosphere next year.
It’s no accident that Republicans are mulling efforts to reduce the turnout of young voters, among others, rather than trying to appeal to them with policy ideas.
At an exclusive donor retreat last week organized by the Republican National Committee, a top GOP lawyer and fundraiser, Cleta Mitchell, laid out strategies for making it more difficult for college students to cast ballots. Mitchell dubbed her presentation “A Level Playing Field for 2024.”
Earlier this month, former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker notably said Republicans would have to undo years of radical indoctrination among younger voters, or else “conservatives will never win battleground states again.”
“Radical indoctrination” is simply a stand-in for education. A typical political party might start wondering which positions they could take to woo more young voters into their fold. Instead, Republicans are plotting to suppress young voters and reeducate them.
The CIRCLE report highlights the motive behind this GOP effort—a surging youth vote is terrible for Republicans at the ballot box. Joe Biden’s reelection campaign kicked off with a focus on personal freedom, a message that is undoubtedly designed to resonate with young voters in 2024.
Indeed, 2022 exit polling showed young voters favored Democrats over Republicans by nearly two-to-one, 63%-35%—margins almost identical to their 2020 preferences, 62%-36%. But in the 2018 midterms, when young voters turned out at a record-setting 28%, they also voted for Democrats by an even more impressive 67%-32%—the largest margin ever for Democrats among young voters.
Republicans have correctly identified that high turnout among young voters is a killer for them at the polls, particularly in the battleground states that now decide nearly every election.
Markos and Kerry are joined by a friend of the podcast, Democratic political strategist Simon Rosenberg. Rosenberg was one of the few outsiders who, like Daily Kos, kept telling the world that nothing supported the idea of a red wave. Simon and the crew break down his strategy for Democratic candidates to achieve a 55% popular vote in all elections—a number that a few years ago would have seemed unattainable, but now feels within reach.