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Black Youth Play Major Role in Democratic Victories in Georgia Runoffs

The data suggests outreach to young Black voters worked, and their overwhelming preference for the Democratic candidates may have been decisive.

Young voters in Georgia—especially Black youth—had a major influence on the Democratic victories in the January 2021 Senate runoffs that decided control of the U.S. Senate.

As they did last November, when they helped turn Georgia blue by swinging the general election for Joe Biden, young people (ages 18-29) in the Peach State were the most likely to support both Democratic candidates, voting 64% for Raphael Warnock vs. 36% for Kelly Loeffler, and 63% for Jon Ossoff vs. 37% for David Perdue. Youth supported Democrats by an even higher margin than in the presidential race, when 58% of young Georgians voted for President-elect Joe Biden and 39% for President Trump.

In the presidential race, the overwhelming vote choice of Black youth in Georgia was especially influential, and that was the case once again in the Senate runoffs: more than 90% of young Black voters backed Warnock and Ossoff. (Unfortunately, data on young voters of other races/ethnicities is not available.) We had previously highlighted the potential electoral power of Black youth in the state, who constituted more than 500,000 registered voters in Georgia.

We do not yet have reliable data on youth voter turnout in these Senate races, and it is difficult to make comparisons to both the general election and to previous runoff elections. That said, it appears that participation was high for an off-year election: with 98% counted, close to 4.5 million ballots (by voters of all ages) were cast in the Senate runoffs, compared to about 5 million votes in the 2020 presidential race. Additionally, 16% of youth who voted in the Senate runoffs had not voted in November, including 23% of Black youth, which may suggest particularly strong outreach to young Black voters in the state.

Over three in five young people were contacted by either party on behalf of the candidates in the lead-up to the runoff elections. There was a big difference by race: almost three-quarters of Black youth (72%) reported being contacted, and 56% of White youth were contacted. Given the major difference in vote choice between young Black and white Georgia voters, that gap in outreach may have proven decisive. At the same time, young people were still the most likely, among all age groups, not to have been contacted at all. More than a third of youth (36%) did not hear from any campaign, compared to 29% of Georgians aged 30-44, 22% among ages 45-64, and 18% among those 65+.

The lower rate of outreach to youth is especially concerning because young people, some of whom are new to elections and to the voting process, often have the most to gain from campaign outreach. The data reveals that young Senate runoff voters who were contacted were the most likely, among all age groups, to take action (making a pledge to vote, donating money, or planning how to cast a ballot) as the result of that contact. Close to half (44%) of all youth were contacted and subsequently took at least one action, compared to just 19% who said they took no action after being contacted (37% were not contacted). This rate of taking action was highest for Black youth, as 63% reported taking one action in response to contact, compared to 9% who did not take action.

One key aspect of youth outreach from campaigns was providing information and resources about how to vote: 25% of youth—the highest of all age groups—and 35% of Black youth who were contacted say they received help registering to vote, planning when and where to vote, or voting absentee. That kind of help may have been especially critical in these Georgia runoffs, since people who wanted to vote absentee needed to re-request a ballot even if they had voted last November.