Are We on Track for Historic Youth Turnout in 2020? NewsWire

10/02/20 07:00AM EDT

newswire: 10/2/2020

  • Fully 63% of 18- to 29-year-olds say they’ll definitely vote this year, up from 47% prior to the 2016 election. This poll, along with several other recent indicators, reflects high enthusiasm among young voters and suggests that we might see turnout numbers similar to those in 2008. (Harvard Institute of Politics)
    • NH: With five weeks to go until the election, all signs suggest that we may be on track for historic--or at least, very high--youth turnout. In the Harvard IoP’s latest poll, 63% of adults under 30 say that they will definitely be voting this year. At the same time in 2016, this figure was 47%. In 2008, when this question was posed to 18- to 24-year-olds, 62% said they’d definitely be voting--so it’s looking likely that youth turnout is going to be on par with 2008 levels, not 2016 levels. 
    • This prediction is supported by other surveys. In an August poll, 77% of young voters in 13 battleground states told the progressive group NextGen America that they will definitely be voting. When asked to score their motivation to vote on a scale of 1 to 10, 54% chose 10. Young adults have also stepped up their political activism in various ways, such as donating to campaigns and registering others to vote. (See “Young Adults Ramping Up Activism Ahead of the 2020 Election.”) According to The Washington Post, a record number of 20- and 30-somethings in the D.C. metro area have signed up to be poll workers, stepping in for veteran officers who are staying away because of Covid-19. 
    • As has been the case in recent elections, we’re also likely to see a massive generation gap. Most voters under 30 plan to vote for Biden, while older voters (older whites, in particular) favor Trump.
    • Yet there are some other deep currents here that could influence turnout and are worth paying attention to.
    • Case in point: this analysis from FiveThirtyEight about generational differences among black voters. The vast majority of black likely voters plan to vote for Biden. No surprise there. But older black voters are much more enthusiastic about Biden than black youth. (Among all whites, it’s the opposite: Biden fares best among young whites.) 
    • In general, older black voters are much more supportive of the Democratic establishment than black voters under 30. They’re more likely to say the Democratic Party is welcoming to them (76% vs. 47%), to trust the Dems to “do what is best” (73% vs. 43%), and to say that they “vote to support the black community” (71% vs. 54%). Young black voters are less critical of Trump and the GOP and are considerably more skeptical about whether their vote makes a difference. Even though black voters are solidly in Biden’s camp, the strongest support is coming from older blacks.

Are We on Track for Historic Youth Turnout in 2020? NewsWire - Voting

    • Pre-election polls, to be sure, don’t necessarily match the ultimate turnout levels. In the 2008 election, which produced the highest youth turnout since 1984, 48.4% of 18- to 29-year-olds voted. So we probably won’t see 63% turnout among this group. But it’s a safe bet we’ll see higher percentages than we did in 2016.
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