2022 Youth Turnout by Race and Gender Reveals Major Inequities
Authors: Ruby Belle Booth, Alberto Medina
Contributors: Sara Suzuki, SJ McGeady
In 2022 young people (ages 18-29) voted at one of the highest levels for a midterm election in recent decades, and their participation was influential in key races across the country. However, as in other recent cycles, there were differences in youth voter turnout by factors like age, gender, and race/ethnicity that point to major inequities and challenges in preparing all youth to participate in democracy.
Using recently available voter file data aggregated by Catalist we can now share estimates of youth voter turnout by various demographic subgroups of young people, as well as by region, that shine a spotlight on these inequities. We find:
- The 2022 voter turnout rates of Black (15%), and Latino (14%) youth were far below those of all youth overall (23%)
- Young women (25%) voted at a slightly higher rate than young men (21%), and the gender gap was more pronounced among Black youth
- White and Black youth had higher turnout in the West than in other regions, while Latino and Asian youth had higher turnout in the South
- Young people ages 18-19, who were newly eligible to vote in 2022, had a 6-point lower turnout rate than youth ages 20-29.
Youth Turnout by Race/Ethnicity
Historically, young people of color have voted at lower rates than white youth—though in a handful of elections over the past decades Black youth turnout has matched or slightly exceeded that of white youth. That trend has held even as youth turnout has increased overall, and young Asians and Latinos especially have increased their participation in recent cycles. In the 2020 presidential election, CIRCLE estimated that turnout was 61% among white youth and under 50% among Asian, Black, and Latino youth.
In 2022 we estimate that 23% of all young people voted: 29% of white youth, 21% of Asian youth, 15% of Black youth, and 14% of Latino youth. These wide gaps in voter turnout by race/ethnicity are the end result of broader inequities CIRCLE research has identified in access and opportunities for electoral learning and engagement.
Even among groups like Latino and Black youth, young people are not monolithic, and the specific contexts in their communities can shape their electoral participation. Examining youth turnout by race and by region highlights some of these dynamics. For example, white youth turnout was 35% in Western states but 26% in the South. By contrast, Asian, and Latino youth turnout was higher in the South than in any other region.
Some of these differences may be attributable to particular competitive elections and the political leanings of different groups of youth. But other factors like election laws, civic learning opportunities, and other types of support for various communities of young people may also be playing a role in these gaps. Understanding where youth participation was lower in 2022 can help identify potential issues and interventions.
Eliminating differences by race/ethnicity is key to achieving a more equitable electorate and a more representative democracy. Currently, white youth are overrepresented among voters, while Black and especially Latino youth are underrepresented.
Youth Turnout by Gender
In recent years young women have been at the forefront of political engagement and social movements. That leadership has also been reflected in electoral participation, with young women voting at higher rates than young men.
We estimate that, in the 2022 midterms, 25% of young women and 21% of young men cast a ballot. That gender turnout gap is much smaller than the one in the 2020 presidential election, when young women’s voter turnout was 11 points higher than young men, but the same as a 4-point gap in the 2018 midterm election.
Among youth of all races/ethnicities young women voted at a higher rate than young men in 2022. The gender gap was 3-4 points among Asian, Latino, and white youth. However, it was 6 percentage points among Black youth: 18% among young Black women and 12% among young Black men.
Youth Turnout by Age Group
We also estimate that voter turnout in 2022 among youth ages 18-19 was 18%, compared to 24% among youth ages 20-29. That 6-point gap among those age groups is slightly higher than it was in 2018 (5 percentage points) and in 2020 (4 points).
It’s important to understand the electoral participation of young people ages 18-19 who are newly eligible to vote in a given cycle. These youth, even more so than their slightly older peers, need to register for the first time, and may need to learn the registration and voting process and the frequently-changing election policies in their state. Before the 2022 midterm election, CIRCLE research found that while most states had more youth ages 18-24 registered to vote than they had in 2018, that was not the case for youth ages 18-19.
Youth in this age group may also have moved recently for school or work, which may force them to change their registration and learn about elections and issues in new communities. The longstanding gaps in voter turnout by age, even among youth, shows that these young people may need additional outreach, information, and other efforts to ensure they’re registered and ready to cast a ballot.
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.