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Lack of Civic Information and Readiness Leading to Lower Latino Youth Turnout 

CIRCLE's analysis of our 2022 youth survey data shines a light on some of the barriers that may prevent young Latinos from fully participating in elections.

Authors: Alberto Medina, Peter de Guzman
Contributor: Katie Hilton

At A Glance: Main Findings

Lower Youth Turnout

14% of young Latinos voted in 2022 (compared to 23% of all youth): the lowest youth voter turnout of any racial group for which we have data.

Lacking Time, Not Interest

Young Latinos were more likely to say they didn’t know how to register or didn’t have time—and much less likely to say it wasn’t important to them.

Lower Outreach and Support

Young Latinos were less likely to be contacted about the election by a party or organization or to hear about issues from friends and family 

Young people are an increasingly influential force in American civic life, both through electoral participation and by taking action on issues in their communities. That includes young Latinos, who make up a higher proportion of the youngest eligible voters than they do of other age groups in the electorate. However, like many youth of color and other young people from historically marginalized communities, young Latinos continue to face barriers to political engagement that prevent them from fully realizing their potential as voters and leaders. 

Using data from CIRCLE’s youth turnout estimates and our 2022 post-election survey, we’re able to highlight some key aspects of young Latinos’ engagement in the past midterm election, their political views and priorities, and some of the inequities in civic access and support that still need to be addressed. 

Note that, in this analysis, any youth who identified as multiple races and chose Hispanic as one of their ethnicities is classified as Latino; i.e., this data includes “Hispanic whites,” Black Latinos, etc. 

Lack of Information May Lead to Lower Voting Rates

According to Census data, in most national elections over the past five decades, young Latinos have had a lower voter turnout than Asian, Black, or white youth. That said, their electoral engagement has been on the rise, and in 2020 CIRCLE estimated (based on voter file data) that 48% of young Latinos cast a ballot, close to the national youth turnout rate of 50%—though still below white youth’s 61% participation rate. 

That trend of increased electoral engagement did not hold in the most recent midterm election. CIRCLE’s recently released 2022 youth turnout data estimates that 14% of young Latinos cast a ballot, compared to the 23% national turnout rate of all youth. State-level youth voter turnout data also suggests that there are challenges when it comes to young Latinos’ electoral engagement. Among the 10 states with the highest proportion of Latinos in its population (NM, CA, TX, AZ, NV, FL, CO, NJ, NY, IL) only one—Colorado—was among the top 10 states for youth voter turnout in 2022. In some states with large Latino populations, like Arizona, voting policies and restrictions may also hinder the electoral participation of young Latinos. 

Our youth voting research has consistently underscored that youth voting rates may not reflect disinterest, but barriers and a lack of civic access and support that can especially hinder the participation of youth of color. The 2022 post-election survey suggests that some young Latinos were affected by a lack of information. Among youth who said they were not registered to vote in 2022, only 12% of young Latinos said it was because it wasn’t important to them. Meanwhile, 16% said they didn’t register because they didn’t know howcompared to 6% of non-Latino youth. Young Latinos were also more likely to say that they didn’t have time to register (24% vs. 14% of all other youth), which may also reflect a lack of information about deadlines, processes, or options like same-day voter registration. 

That lack of information may have been partially due to less outreach from organizations and fewer opportunities to hear about politics from the people around them. In our survey, 50% of young Latinos reported that they were not contacted by any political party, campaign, or local or national organization ahead of the 2022 election. That’s slightly higher than the 44% of all other (non-Latino) youth said they were never contacted. Young Latinos were especially less likely to be contacted by a national organization (21% vs 28%) or by the Republican Party/a Republican campaign (27% vs. 36%). The latter is especially notable given that, according to exit polls, young Latinos’ support for Republican House candidates nationally increased from 17% in 2018 to 30% in 2022. 

Young Latinos were also less likely to hear about political issues from some of the people closest to them. Trusted people in youth’s personal networks can be a key source of information about elections, especially when major parties and organizations are not fully and equitably reaching all youth. But young Latinos were 10 percentage points less likely to hear about issues in 2022 from family (49% vs. 59%), 9 points less likely to hear from friends or roommates (40% vs. 49%) and six points less likely to hear from coworkers (19% vs. 25%) 

Notably, young Latinos were more likely to get political information on YouTube (31% vs. 22%), which can be a valuable platform for consuming and creating media about elections but may present challenges related to misinformation. 

Motivated to Take Action, but Not Feeling as Ready 

As suggested by the fact that young unregistered Latinos were less likely than other youth to say that it wasn’t important to them, other responses in our survey underscore that they are far from politically apathetic. Young Latinos were just as likely as non-Latino youth to say that they have participated—or intend to participate in the near future—In a range of civic actions like attending protests, following candidates on social media, donating money to campaigns, or running for elected office. 

Young Latinos are also just as likely as their peers to say they support or are actively involved in social movements like the environmental movement, the gun violence prevention movement, and the movements for or against abortion rights. They are much more likely to participate in or support the Dreamer movement for immigrant rights, and less likely to support the Second Amendment rights movement or Make America Great Again. 

Similarly, young Latinos largely care about the same issue as their peers of other races/ethnicities. When asked to choose their top 3 political priorities in November 2022, the three most frequently selected issues for young Latinos were inflation (37%), abortion (27%), and jobs that pay a living wage (25%). Those were also the top three issues chosen by non-Latino youth.  

In addition, a strong majority of young Latinos “agree” or “strongly agree” that they can make their community better by helping others (79%), that change can occur in the country if people band together (73%), and that there are things they can do to make the world a better place (71%). 

However, that desire to get involved and effect change on key issues does not always translate to a belief that they feel ready to do it. Only about half of all youth, including young Latinos (51%), agree or strongly agree that they feel “as well-informed as most people” about politics and government, and Latinos are slightly less likely than non-Latino youth to say they feel well-qualified to participate in politics (36% vs. 41%). CIRCLE research has previously found that this lack of civic confidence or efficacy may also be related to a lack of information, outreach, and support.

The relative lack of civic readiness self-reported by young Latinos is similar to that of other youth of color and a driver of the voter turnout inequities by race/ethnicity we saw in 2022 and in past elections. They underscore the need to Grow Voters, broadly and equitably, by addressing related inequality in civic learning, by redoubling efforts to reach and contact young Latinos, and by understanding the issues and sources of information that are important to this fast-growing segment of the American electorate.

CIRCLE Growing Voters

Released in 2022, the CIRCLE Growing Voters report introduces a new framework to transform how communities and institutions prepare youth for democracy. It includes major recommendations for organizations across sectors to do this work more equitably and effectively.

About the Survey: The survey was developed by CIRCLE at Tufts University, and the polling firm Ipsos collected the data from their nationally representative panel of respondents and a sample of people recruited for this survey between November 9 and November 30, 2022. The study involved an online surveyed a total of 2,018 self-reported U.S. citizens ages 18 to 29 in the United States. Unless mentioned otherwise, data are for all 18- to 29-year-olds in our sample. The margin of error for the entire sample is +/- 2.2 percentage points; subsamples may have higher margins of error.