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Millions of Youth Cast Ballots, Decide Key 2022 Races

Young people, who overwhelmingly favored Democrats, had one of their highest turnout rates ever in a midterm and shaped results across the country.

According to day-after estimates from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, 27% of young people (ages 18-29) turned out to vote in the 2022 midterm election and helped decide critical races, wielding the growing power of a generation that is increasingly engaged even as many remain disillusioned about U.S. politics. This 2022 youth turnout is likely the second-highest youth turnout rate for a midterm election in the past 30 years, behind only the historic 31% turnout in 2018. Votes cast by young people made up 12% of all votes in this election, nearly matching the 13% youth share of the vote from the 2014 and 2018 midterms according to National Election Pool surveys.

Nationally, young voters supported Democratic House candidates by a wide margin: 62% to 35%. In several key Senate and gubernatorial elections, youth support for Democratic candidates was even higher, as youth helped hold back a “red wave” even as control of the House and Senate remained undecided Wednesday with races yet to be called.

About the Estimate: CIRCLE is the nation’s leading nonpartisan research center on young people’s political participation. CIRCLE’s day-after estimates of youth voter turnout have closely tracked trends confirmed by other data sources, like the Census and voter files, that will become available in the coming months. This estimate is calculated using vote tallies as reported by major news outlets, the youth share of the vote reported by the National Election Pool Survey conducted by Edison Research, and Census American Community Survey population data. This day-after estimate excludes states that had not reported a significant percentage of their vote as of Wednesday afternoon and may be updated in the coming days.

Youth Continue Strong Voting Trend

Our estimate that 27% of youth (ages 18-29) cast a ballot makes 2022 the midterm election with the second-highest youth voter turnout in almost three decades, according to CIRCLE’s day-after calculations. We also estimate that youth turnout was even higher in some battleground states.

After hovering around 20% turnout in midterm elections since the 1990s, young people shifted that trend in 2018, and have maintained that shift in 2022, with more than a quarter of young people casting a ballot. Youth are increasing their electoral participation, leading movements, and making their voices heard on key issues that affect their communities.

CIRCLE also estimates that, in a group of nine electorally competitive states for which exit poll data is available (FL, GA, MI, NC, NH, NV, OH, PA, WI), the aggregate youth voter turnout was 31%. Competitive elections that feature more media attention and investment in outreach can influence youth turnout, which is also shaped by election policies, and by how well communities grow voters by supporting all young people’s electoral participation.

“Young people proved once again that they’ll turn out to vote and impact election results, and their turnout in 2022 is one of the highest we’ve ever seen in a midterm election,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Newhouse Director of CIRCLE. “In many states youth overcame changes to election laws that posed direct barriers to participation and a lack of strong and continued investment in youth registration. There’s both a big need and extraordinary potential to continue building on this trend of strong youth voting by stepping up our support for all youth to have a voice in our democracy.”

Youth Back Democrats, Swing Key Races in PA, MI, WI, GA

Young people also continued their trend of strongly backing Democrats by wide margins and having an impact on elections around the country. According to the National Election Pool survey conducted by Edison Research, nationally 63% of youth voted for a Democrat, and 35% voted for a Republican candidate to the U.S. House of Representatives. That closely matches 2020 but represents a slight shift from 2018, when 67% of youth voted for a Democrat and 32% for a Republican.

Young voters are far from monolithic in their political preferences, and youth vote choice differed by race/ethnicity. Nationally, Black youth had an overwhelming vote choice for House Democrats: 89% compared to 9% for Republicans. More than two thirds of Latino youth voted for Democrats: 68% to 30%. Young white voters backed Republican House candidates by a 10-point margin in 2020, but white youth who voted in 2022 favored Democrats by a 58% to 40% margin.

As in recent elections, young people’s preference for Democrats proved pivotal in key elections where they were the age group that gave Democratic candidates their biggest vote margin:

  • In the Pennsylvania Senate race, which Democrat John Fetterman won by a slim 3-point margin, youth ages 18-29 preferred Fetterman 70% to 28%, compared to 55% to 42% among voters ages 30-44, with voters over 45 preferring Republican candidate Mehmet Oz.
     
  • In the Wisconsin gubernatorial election, which CIRCLE had ranked as the #1 race where the youth vote could influence the outcome, Democratic Governor Tony Evers won reelection by a 3-point margin. Young voters gave Evers extraordinary support: 70% vs. 28% for Republican challenger Tim Michels. Voters 30-44 also preferred Evers by a slimmer 55% to 44% margin, while voters over 45 backed the GOP candidate.
     
  • In the Georgia Senate race that is headed to a runoff election, with both candidates at 49% of the vote, youth backed Democratic incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock 63% to 36%. Voters ages 30-44 backed Warnock 56% to 41%, while voters over 45 gave a majority of their votes to GOP challenger Herschel Walker. Notably, the youth share of the vote in Georgia was 13%, slightly higher than the national rate.

The youth vote was also influential in the Michigan governor race and the Michigan ballot question to enshrine the right to abortion in the state’s constitution, which was approved.


 

In the coming days, CIRCLE will continue to share research on the youth vote in the 2022 midterm election, including expanded analyses of young voters’ impact in key races, of young people’s vote choice by various demographic factors, and of the key issues for youth in this election. All of that research will be available on our 2022 Election page.

Media Inquiries: CIRCLE experts are available to discuss our research and share data-backed insights on young voters. Please contact circle@tufts.edu with any inquiries or requests.

More 2022 Election Research

Find all of our data and analysis on young voters' participation and impact in the midterms on our 2022 election page.