Wanting Political Change, More Young Americans Voted in the Midterm Elections
America’s midterm elections took place on Tuesday, November 6th, with the country voting on all members of the House of Representatives and a third of Senate seats. Seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s controversial record, voter turnout hit a 50-year high. Close to a third (31%) of people aged 18 to 29 voted — a nearly 50% increase from the 2014 midterms, according to estimates by Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. The election resulted in a shift in the balance of power and the most diverse Congress in American history.
In the months preceding the election, a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida precipitated nationwide youth marches against gun violence, along with a push to register young voters and encourage their participation in the political process. Celebrities used their platforms to inspire young fans to vote – most notably Taylor Swift, who broke her long-held political neutrality to endorse Democratic candidates.
MTV Insights and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs have tracked sentiments about politics and social issues among Americans aged 15 to 34 with a series of surveys since March 2018. The final poll was fielded about a month before the election, in late September/early October 2018. Here are highlights from this study:
American young people were feeling ready for positive change. Nearly two-thirds of Americans aged 15 to 34 said their generation was feeling motivated to make positive changes in the country, and about 4 in 10 reported feeling excited (42 percent) or interested (43 percent) in the election.
They felt less skeptical about their chance to influence the government. In October, a majority of young people believed public officials cared “a little or not at all” about what people like them think (64%) – down from 75% in March. Similarly, the sentiment that people like them could affect the government “a little or not at all” declined from 62% in March to 52% in October.
While a majority believe in the importance of voting, not all planned to cast a ballot. While 54% of said that voting is very or extremely important, only 32% of those eligible to vote said they were certain to. This enthusiasm skewed leftward, with 41% of young Democrats saying they were certain to vote, compared with 28% of young Republicans. Close to 1 in 5 (15%) said they would definitely not vote.
Many followed political news but did not participate in other ways. While 6 in 10 young adults read or watched news about the midterms, most did not post, like or comment on social platforms, participate in rallies, or volunteer for campaigns.
Young Democrats were more engaged in the midterms than young Republicans. Young Democrats’ overall interest (51% vs. 40%), news consumption (69% vs. 55%), and use of social media to share their views about the election (34% vs. 23%) outpaced young Republicans.
Most believe the government protects their life and liberty – but many see it as a threat. Overall, 58% of Americans aged 15 to 34 see the federal government as protecting their life and liberty. However, more African-Americans see it as a threat (59%) than whites (35%) and Hispanics (43%), and more women see it as a threat (47%) than men (32%).
Health care, immigration, and the economy are the biggest concerns. The top issues for young Americans are healthcare (62%), immigration (55%), the economy (52%) and gun policy (49%). Party differences emerged, with healthcare and immigration as the main concerns of young Democrats, and the economy and taxes topping the list among young Republicans.