New study projects stunning drop in 2018 millennial voter turnout in battleground states
By Celeste Katz
Jul 20 2017
The 2016 presidential election — and its outcome — may have given plenty of Americans a new sense of urgency when it comes to civics.
But a new study projects that 40 million Americans who voted last year will likely not show up at the polls for the 2018 midterms — and that two-thirds of those “drop-off” voters will be millennials, unmarried women and people of color.
The report, just out from the Voter Participation Center and Lake Research Partners, “Comparing the Voting Electorate in 2012-2016 and Predicting 2018 Drop-off,” notes that many of those expected not to cast a ballot next year live in key battleground states like Arizona, Nevada, Florida and Ohio.
“Everybody declines in their turnout in off-year elections. But the decline is much, much more dramatic among the ‘Rising American Electorate,’” Democratic strategist and pollster Celinda Lake said in a Thursday conference call about the findings.
According to the report produced for the nonprofit Voter Participation Center, which works to increase civic engagement, “35.1% of those who voted in 2016, or 25.4 million RAE voters, will stay home” in 2018. By comparison, “The predicted drop-off among non-RAE voters is only 22.1%, or 14.4 million voters.”
The study defines the “Rising American Electorate” as unmarried women, millennials ages 18 to 34, African-Americans, Latinos and other people of color as defined by the U.S. Census.
Together, Lake said, the “RAE” numbers about 133 million people. At 59.2% of the voting-eligible U.S. population in 2016, the 2016 presidential race marked the first election in which this group stood in the majority.
However, “The RAE, while increasing their turnout and increasing in their numbers, still lags behind the non-RAE in its overall turnout,” Lake noted.
The researchers said there are an array of reasons why members of the RAE don’t vote at the same rates as their older, white or married counterparts.
Among them: RAE voters may have less information about the candidates or the voting process itself. They may feel less engaged in state or local elections than national ones. Particularly in the case of millennials, they tend to move more often, requiring them to re-register to vote each time they do.
Finally, the study’s creators said, campaign-season messaging may not be targeted at the concerns of RAE voters because of their age or family status.
All this can contribute to a sense of discouragement about traditional civic engagement, and members of the RAE cohort may opt for alternatives, such as volunteerism or expressing their views via social media.
Of course, this new electorate has plenty of overlap within the groups it comprises; unmarried women and millennials are the biggest part of the equation.