February 17, 2022

Young Adult Turnout Nearly Doubled in the 2018 Midterm Elections. Can It Be Maintained in 2022?

Young people at voting booths

As the 2022 midterm elections approaches this fall, much public discussion is focused on expected voter turnout, particularly for young adults who demonstrated impressive voting efforts in the last midterm elections. According to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, the share of U.S. young adults ages 18 to 24 who voted in the last midterm elections nearly doubled, from 17% in 2014 to 32% in 2018. While the 2018 midterm was widely recognized for its high turnout among all voting age groups, young adults are credited for their extraordinary civic engagement that year. Activists, advocates and leaders focused on youth engagement are working hard to maintain that momentum in 2022.

In a similarly impressive effort in the last presidential elections, just over half (51%) of young adults ages 18 to 24 voted in 2020, up from 43% in 2016 and well above 36% in 2000 (the earliest year available in the KIDS COUNT® Data Center). It is critical to maintain these gains in active young voters, as they are important civic participants, and empowering them to vote benefits their lives and our democracy.

State Differences in Young Adult Voter Turnout

Over the last two decades, most states with available data saw increases in young adult voter turnout in both the midterm (2002–2018) and presidential (2000–2020) elections. However, the share of young people voting varied widely from state to state and from election to election within each state.

Among states with available data in 2020, estimates of young adults who voted in the presidential elections ranged from nearly one-third in Oklahoma (31%) and Arkansas (32%) to more than two-thirds in Minnesota (69%), Maryland (71%) and New Jersey (75%). State-level turnout in prior presidential elections was markedly lower, with 2016 figures spanning 22% to 61%, for example.

In the 2018 midterm, just over 1 in 5 young adults voted in Idaho (21%) and Ohio (22%), compared to nearly half in Wisconsin (48%). In the previous 2014 midterm, youth civic engagement was much lower, with turnout ranging from 9% to 31% among states with data.

Why Does Voting and Civic Engagement Matter for Young Adults?

When young people play an active role in elections or other policy change efforts, they develop skills and knowledge, and they become empowered to help shape their futures, strengthen their communities and contribute to democracy. In elections, they vote for policies that they believe will help them and their families succeed, whether it is related to education, health, mental health, safety, financial stability or other issues. Civic engagement creates valuable leadership skills, which can help youth and young adults thrive throughout their lives.

Learn More on Youth and Young Adult Civic Engagement & Other Issues

These data on voting trends are continually updated in the KIDS COUNT Data Center, along with 60-plus other indicators about youth and young adults, including teen participation in community service or volunteer work. This dataset is part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Thrive by 25 focus, which works to ensure that all young people have what they need to realize their full potential.

Explore more of our blog posts and publications related this topic:

In addition, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement at Tufts University, a nonpartisan research organization focused on youth civic engagement, is a useful resource on this topic.

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