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Many sectors of society must play a role in increasing youth voting and participation in democracy, and they can employ varied strategies to drive engagement. Different stakeholders will approach these efforts with diverse goals: some want to improve equity in civic participation, others to build a broad base of political power, and others still simply to win the next election.

CIRCLE’s Youth Electoral Significance Index (YESI) is a valuable tool for any individual, campaign, organization, or institution that seeks to increase youth political engagement. The index provides a data-driven ranking of the top 10 races where young voters have the highest potential to influence election results. The YESI can help stakeholders identify places where additional efforts and resources to turn out the youth vote could be decisive. It can also be a tool for equity and broadening engagement, if efforts focus on reaching those not yet engaged in the top-ranked locations.

Spotlight on Key States

The Youth Electoral Significance Index underscores that young voters can have a decisive impact in dozens of races across the country. However, there are several key states that are expected to have multiple highly competitive races and are among the top 10 of both our Senate and Governor race rankings:

  • Arizona (Senate #2, Governor #2) - Young people of color, especially Latino and indigenous youth, could play a decisive role in statewide elections in Arizona. Read more
  • Georgia (Senate #1, Governor #5) - Youth voter turnout in Georgie has been on the rise in recent elections, and the decisive vote choice of Black youth can influence results. Read more
  • Pennsylvania (Senate #4, Governor #7) - Young voters may need support in the perennial battleground state of Pennsylvania, which has few facilitative election laws that make it easier to register. Read more
  • Wisconsin (Governor #1, Senate #5) - Wisconsin's election laws, like online voter registration and same-day registration, have helped youth in the state have above-average turnout in recent elections. Read more

Methodology: How Do We Rank the Races?

The Youth Electoral Significance Index (YESI) is calculated in four primary steps: 

  1. Gather available data about demographic composition of each state or district, turnout and registration in past elections, and the predicted competitiveness of 2022 races. See the data components for both the state- and district-level rankings below.

  2. Calculate indicators as necessary and create composite indices (i.e., scores made up of multiple, related indicators) as appropriate, then determine how to combine and weight the indicators into a formula for calculating the YESI.

  3. Compute the YESI as a function of standardized scores from each component of YESI data. This creates the “unweighted” YESI, which does not yet incorporate the competitiveness of the upcoming race.

  4. Compute the weighted YESI by adding a “competitiveness score” to the unweighted YESI. This step creates a cluster of top-ranking states that are all considered to have at least moderately competitive races in 2022.

About the House Rankings

Because the 2022 House races are for newly redrawn districts, census data is not yet available for the boundaries of each of these districts. As such, measures are estimated by compiling data across smaller units of measurement and aligning them as closely as possible with the newly drawn Congressional maps. Our data, described in detail below, are based on an average between a high and low estimate for each metric.

Previous Election Cycles

CIRCLE previously produced Youth Electoral Significance Index rankings for the 2018 and 2020 elections. You can explore those indices below.