News & Politics

Youth Vote Against Republican Tsunami by 19 Points

National exit polls of more than 17,000 voters show a remarkable trend: Younger adults age 18-24 were even more progressive, voting against GOP (58-39).

National exit polls of more than 17,000 voters show a remarkable trend: Adults age 18-29 voted against the Republican Tsunami by 16 points (56-40). Younger adults age 18-24 were even more progressive, voting against Republicans by 19 points (58-39). The exit polls, conducted by Edison Research in association with AP and CNN found that:

  • 18-29-year-olds voted for Democrats over Republicans by 16 points (56-40) with 4% responding: "Other/No answer"
  • 18-24-year-olds voted for Democrats over Republicans by 19 points (58-39) with 3% responding: "Other/No answer"

These are remarkable numbers for a couple of reasons. First, the sample size of the poll was 17,506 respondents, chosen based on scientifically-randomized methodology, so the numbers are likely to be fairly robust.

Second, young adult voters withstood a Republican "Tsunami" election and voted roughly 19-37 points more progressively than older age demographics, against the backdrop of a highly-polarized Republican-leaning political environment.

These numbers are in keeping with a trend from the previous three national elections in which young adult voters (18-29) preferred Democrats to Republicans at a much higher rate than older segments of the population -- by 9 points in 2004, 22 points in 2006, and 34 points in 2006.

The silver lining in yesterday's results for Democrats is that for four national elections in a row, young voters continue to be the most progressive segment of the population -- and the most progressive generation on record since exit polling began in 1972.

If this trend continues, the opportunity for progressive values and leadership to shape America's future is enormous. But progressive investment in youth organizing and youth leadership has been spotty at best. The question now is whether progressive leaders and funders will draw the right lessons from 2010, seize the opportunity, and finally get serious about investing in the rising progressive electorate.

Shout outs to the Bus Federation which has highly-creative and effective non-partisan youth GOTV operations in three of the states with the tightest uncalled races right now. If Democrats win any of the three squeaky-close races in Colorado, Washington and Oregon, they will at least partially have the Bus Federation and other youth and student organizations to thank.

Young people are ours to lose -- for now.

The writing is on the wall. But can we read it?

Billy Wimsatt has published six books, most recently: Please Don’t Bomb The Suburbs: A mid-term report on my generation, and the future of our movement (Akashic). He also founded or co-founded organizations and campaigns including The League of Young Voters, Generational Alliance and the Ohio Youth Corps. A Senior Fellow at Movement Strategy Center, he writes about the future of political organizing, and runs All Hands On Deck, an effort to organize unlikely voters in 2010 and beyond.
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Election 2018