Millennial and Generation Z voters are expected to turn out in record numbers for the Nov. 3 presidential election, experts say, continuing a trend of increased participation since the midterm elections in 2018.
“A lot of students are back in their hometowns, so they are more likely to be able to vote easily,” said Josh Kutner, a senior at the George Washington University and chairman of GW College Republicans.
“Campaigns are really looking to young people to be leaders and help fight for their values and their visions for their community, so I think that's been a pretty big role in getting young voters engaged all across the country this year.”
Among the nearly 240 million eligible voters in the United States today, about 20% are 18- to 29-year-olds who are able to cast ballots in Tuesday’s election, explained Abby Kiesa, director of impact for the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
More than 7 million young people have voted early by last count, according to CIRCLE. The number of young voters in Florida, North Carolina, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Michigan has already passed “the 2016 margin of victory in each state,” stated CIRCLE’s data-centric website.
Young voters include millennials who were born between 1985 and 1995, and Gen Zers born in and after 1996.
Among Gen Zers (18- to 23-year-olds), 61% said they planned to vote Democrat. Among the same age group, 22% said they planned to vote Republican, the Washington, DC-based Pew Research Center reported in May 2020.
Millennial voting nearly doubled between 2014 and 2018 to 42%, according to Pew demographer Richard Fry.
Combining Gen Z and Gen X – the Gen X population born between 1965 and 1980 and is now between 40 and 55 years of age -- that bloc cast more votes than Baby Boomers and older generations in the 2018 midterms and in the 2016 presidential election, according to Pew. The Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.
“Young voter turnout is super important in this election because it is a new wave of voters whose loyalties are up for grabs for either party, Democrat or Republican,” wrote Samuel Kaufman, a Texas high school student, in an email. Kaufman also noted he had voted early.
“The new generation of voters is also more tolerant and accepting of civil rights, more so than the last generation,” he said. “That could usher in a new era of dramatic change pending their votes in their election.”
“One of the things that we're seeing in 2020 is that young people believe in their own power,” said Tufts’ Kiesa.
“We're also seeing that the pandemic has helped many young people, almost 45 percent, say that the decisions made by elected officials impact their everyday life, and that's a lesson that they've learned over the past several months while we've been going through this,” said Kiesa.
Social media have been key to galvanizing younger voters, stated Ben Kelley, a young voter from Illinois.
President Donald Trump “is really the first president to be constantly engaged with social media and to use it to communicate his inner thoughts and policy proposals,” stated Kelley, and “that is where young voters are.”
According to Twitter, Trump has 87.4 million followers and has tweeted more than 58,100 times. Former President Barack Obama has 124.6 million followers and tweeted more than 16,000 times.
Jordan Harzynski, a freshman at George Mason University in Virginia, runs the “youngvoters4joe” Instagram account, which has more than 1,100 followers and promotes young voter turnout for Democratic candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden.
“We can't keep tweeting and posting on Instagram; we have to do the real work,” said Harzynski. “I've seen that as a problem with my group, people like to watch the debates but they don't like to make phone calls. We have to make phone calls; we have to put in the work to win this election.”