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New Poll of Texans Under 40 Shows Need for Outreach, Especially Among Latinos

An exclusive CIRCLE survey of young Texans conducted in January also found high support for Bernie Sanders, followed by Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren

In advance of Super Tuesday, when millions of Texans will have the opportunity to vote in Democratic primaries, an exclusive new poll of Texans under age 40 finds strong levels of interest in participating, and at the same time highlights a need for campaigns to reach more potential voters—especially younger Latinos. Our poll of Millennial and Gen Z Texans (ages 18-39) also finds that, as we’ve seen throughout the 2020 primaries so far, Senator Bernie Sanders is the top choice among younger voters, but other also candidates enjoy support from a good number of under-40 Texans.

Some of our top findings include:

  • 39% of Texans, ages 18-39, say they are “extremely likely” to participate in the March 3rd presidential primaries, including 43% of Whites and 38% of Latinos. More than half of those who are at least considering voting say they plan to do so in the Democratic primary and 15% say they are not sure in which primary they will vote.
  • 37% of under-40 Texans in our poll say they support Bernie Sanders, followed by 25% for Joe Biden and 18% for Elizabeth Warren. At the time of this poll, former Mayor Buttigieg, who did well in Iowa and New Hampshire, received 2.5% support. This data is from before Iowa and New Hampshire, and may not reflect how the race has shifted after the results in those states.
  • 66% of Millennial and Gen Z Texans in our poll, including 75% of Latinos, have not heard from a campaign, and 66% did not know that it’s an open primary or were not sure. This data point suggests there’s still a lot of work to do to get younger Texans prepared and excited to vote.

The 2020 Texas Presidential primary comes on the heels of a midterm election in which young voters, especially young Latinos, showed their political influence. In a traditionally Republican state, 2018 provided a glimpse of how younger generations could be changing the political landscape in Texas. For example, in the closely watched U.S. Senate race between Beto O’Rourke and Senator Ted Cruz, our research found that young voters were critical to making it a close race that was ultimately decided by less than 3 percentage points.

Much of that was due to the fact that youth turnout (ages 18-29) in Texas jumped significantly from 8% in 2014 to 26% in 2018, remarkably almost matching the 28% youth turnout in the 2016 presidential election.This showed the extent to which young people in Texas and around the country will respond when invited to participate, and it underscores a massive opportunity for more campaign outreach to youth in the state, especially among young Latinos.

We estimate that 67% of Texans under-40 were registered to vote.[1] Because the upcoming Texas primaries are open primaries, in which voters who aren’t affiliated with the party whose primary they want to vote in can still participate, there is potential for hundreds of thousands more Gen Z and Millennial Texans to make their voices heard. In our poll, 40% of under-40 Texans identified as Democrats and 27% as unaffiliated. This represents a huge segment of the potential electorate that could have a decisive influence on the Democratic primary.

Our poll finds that 39% of Texans, ages 18-39, say they are “extremely likely” to cast ballots in one of the March 3rd primaries, including 43% of Whites and 38% of Latinos in that age group. There is also a slight difference by age, with 42% of Texans ages 30-39 saying they’re extremely likely to vote, compared to 37% of those ages 18-29. More than half of those who are at least thinking about voting in a primary plan to participate in the Democratic primary. This high likelihood to vote may be due to several factors, including the immense amount of organizing in Texas in recent years, as well as younger generations experiencing the impact of elections on their lives, peers, and communities.

Nationally, in 2018, we saw a strong relationship between young people who believed the election would affect everyday issues in their community and the likelihood to vote. Among the Texans in our poll, two-thirds believe that the 2020 election will have a significant influence on everyday issues, including  71% among Millennial and Gen Z Latinos. We should also note that this high likelihood to vote may be due in part to the level of educational attainment in our survey sample, which is slightly higher than among all under-40 Texans.

Younger Texans Prefer Sanders, Biden, and Warren

In a state where Secretary Clinton won young voters (ages 18-29) in the 2016 general election—the only age group she won in the state—Democratic candidates should see youth as a core constituency. In addition, before Texas and the other Super Tuesday contests, only 155 of the nearly 2,000 delegates needed to win the Democratic nomination outright will have been awarded; in Texas alone, 228 pledged delegates are on the line. Between candidates who have relied on young voters to succeed, and those looking to rack up more delegates in a state that’s hardly been a left-leaning stalwart, young people’s votes will matter a great deal.

Among respondents in our poll who reported they were at least considering voting in the Democratic primary, more than a third (37%) reported that they support Senator Bernie Sanders, followed by 25% for former Vice President Joe Biden and 18% for Senator Elizabeth Warren. Former Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who placed first or second in the first two nominating contests, has 2.5% support among under-40 Texans in our poll. While our data was collected before the first two presidential primary contests, it does suggest a potentially different scenario than what we sawin Iowa and New Hampshire.

Under-40  Latinos: Big Openings for More Campaign Outreach and Education 

The potential for youth to play a large role in the Democratic primary is high, but whether that potential is realized depends a good deal on how much campaigns reach youth in the next two weeks. According to our poll, campaigns still have a lot of work to do, especially among Latinos in Texas.

Barely one in three (34%) Texans under age 40 have been contacted by campaigns or parties, which is roughly half of what we saw among youth (ages 18-29) in Iowa. That means two-thirds of Millennial and Gen Z Texans have never been contacted by a campaign during the past six months. It’s even worse for Latinos, 75% of whom have not been contacted, compared to 60% of White Texans in our poll. In addition, as is often the case, the youngest potential voters are being contacted at even lower rates: 70% of Texans ages 18-29 have not heard from a campaign this cycle, compared to 61% of those ages 30-39. Given the amount of support the O’Rourke campaign received from young Latinos in 2018, this may be an enormous untapped source of potential support for Democratic campaigns.

As in all elections, one key element of campaign outreach in the coming weeks will be providing basic information about who is eligible to vote and how/where/when to do so. While an open primary is more inclusive, this may not be clear to all of those who may be interested in participating. For example, two-thirds of Latinos in our poll either think they have to be registered with a party to vote in the primary or said they don’t know either way. Among all respondents, Latinos were more likely to say they didn’t know (40%) than non-Latinos (27%).

As they’ve done so far in the early nominating contests, there is incredible potential for younger voters to participate and shape the Texas Democratic primary and other all-important Super Tuesday states. Much will depend on how successfully campaigns can reach Millennial and Gen Z Texans in the next few weeks—especially Latinos, to whom outreach lags even further behind—with accurate information about the primaries and by making them feel that they’re an important and valued constituency in our democracy.

About the Poll

This Texas poll was designed by CIRCLE and conducted by YouGov. It surveyed a representative sample of Texas residents, ages 18-39, who are eligible to vote— regardless of their current voter registration status. The survey was conducted between January 13-27, 2020, and is based on online responses. The total number of respondents is 500, with a Latino sample of 206. YouGov interviewed 748 respondents who were then matched down to a sample of 500 to produce the final dataset. The respondents were matched to a sampling frame on gender, age, race, and education. The frame was constructed by stratified sampling from Texans ages 18-39 in the 2016 American Community Survey (ACS) 1-year sample.

[1] This is a CIRCLE calculation using the Catalist aggregated voter file and Census ACS 1-Year population data. The calculation was done on February 14, 2020.

Authors: Abby Kiesa, Rey Junco, Noorya Hayat, Alberto Medina