Youth turnout surged across the country last fall, exceeding the voter participation gains in virtually every big and bellwether state.
The new turnout estimates for the 2018 midterm, from demographers at Tufts University, drew a direct connection between political competition and boosted turnout among voters younger than 30 – making plain that energizing the younger electorate can have a demonstrable impact on the outcome of a tight presidential contest and tossup congressional races next year.
But the research also makes clear that younger people from coast to coast get to the polls less frequently than their older voters. Nationwide, 50 percent of eligible voters turned out, the best participation in a midterm year in more than a century. But the highest youth turnout the researchers found was in Minnesota, at 44 percent.
Still, in each of the seven states with the most closely-watched Senate contests last fall, youth turnout was more than 25 percentage points higher than in the 2014 midterm.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts, which studies youth civic engagement, made its estimates based on voting data from 34 states, including nine of the 10 most populous (California the exception) and all but three of the states eyed as being competitive on the 2020 presidential map. (The data is not yet available from Arizona, Wisconsin or New Hampshire.)
Youth turnout increased in every state studied. And in 26 of them the increase exceeded the increase in overall voter turnout. This was true in every one of the dozen potential 2020 presidential battlegrounds for which there was data.
Six of the eight states where that did not happen are reliably Republican on the national map, which the researchers said reflected findings from last fall that the GOP did not reach out to younger voters nearly so aggressively as the Democrats did. Youth turnout gains also lagged behind the general electorate's enthusiasm in three traditionally red states — Missouri, Tennessee and Texas — that hosted marquee Senate races where Republicans triumphed despite particularly strong Democratic campaigns.
The study said these were the states where youth turnout topped 30 percent:
News. Community. Debate. Levers for better democracy.
Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter.
RepresentUs acquired 8,000 signatures on a petition asking Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez to keep working on a "revolving door" bill. Paula Barkan, Austin chapter leader of RepresentUs, handed the petition to Brandon Simon, Cruz's Central Texas regional director, on July 31.
Remember that tweet exchange in May between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the one where they discussed bipartisan legislation to ban former members of Congress from becoming lobbyists?
To recap: Ocasio-Cortez tweeted her support for legislation banning the practice in light of a report by the watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that nearly 60 percent of lawmakers who recently left Congress had found jobs with lobbying firms. Cruz tweeted back, extending an invitation to work on such a bill. Ocasio-Cortez responded, "Let's make a deal."
The news cycle being what it is, it's easy to forget how the media jumped on the idea of the Texas Republican and the New York Democrat finding common ground on a government ethics proposal. Since then, we've collectively moved on — but not everyone forgot.
The government reform group RepresentUs recently drafted a petition asking Cruz and Ocasio-Cortez to follow through on their idea, gathering more than 8,000 signatures.
Sixty percent of young adults in the United States believe other people "can't be trusted," according to a recent Pew Research survey, which found that younger Americans were far more likely than older adults to distrust both institutions and other people. But adults of all ages did agree on one thing: They all lack confidence in elected leaders.
While united in a lack of confidence, the cohorts disagreed on whether that's a major problem. The study found that young adults (ages 18-29) were less likely than older Americans to believe that poor confidence in the federal government, the inability of Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the influence of lobbyists and special interest groups were "very big problems."