More than 8 Million Youth Are Newly Eligible Voters in 2022
Lead Author: Peter de Guzman, Researcher
Contributors: Alberto Medina, Abby Kiesa
There are an estimated 8.3 million newly eligible young voters for the 2022 midterm elections—meaning, youth who have turned 18 since the previous general election in November 2020. These 18- and 19-year-olds comprise 16% of the 18-29 age group for the 2022 election. They include approximately 4.5 million white youth and 3.8 million youth of color: 2 million Latinos, 1.2 million Black youth, 500,000 Asians, and 80,000 Native Americans.
Geographically, according to U.S. Census regions, 3.2 million of these newly eligible voters live in the South, 2 million in the West, 1.8 million in the Midwest, and 1.3 million in the Northeast. However, the racial demographics of newly eligible voters differ widely by region. While an estimated 70% of 18- and 19-year-olds in the Midwest are white, only half of 18- and 19-year-olds in the South are White. In the West, Latino and Asian American youth make up the largest shares of this 18 and 19-year-old group of any region: 40% of 18- and 19-year-olds in the West are Latino, and 11% are Asian American.
Citizenship status was not available in this data, which is therefore about youth who are newly eligible to vote by aging into the electorate but could be otherwise ineligible.
Youngest Potential Voters Diversify the Electorate
Newly eligible voters ages 18 and 19 are notably more diverse than the rest of the electorate. While approximately 63% of all U.S. residents over 18 are white, 54% of newly eligible voters are. Black and, especially, Latino youth make up a larger share of these new members of the electorate. In every region of the country, Latinos make up a larger share of the ages 18-19 electorate than of all residents over age 18.
Notably, in the West, where Latinos make up 40% of all newly eligible voters, nearly matching the 42% of youth in that age group who are white. Asian youth, who have recently been increasing their voter turnout and political engagement, make up 11% of the ages 18-19 group in the West, the only region of the country where they make up a double-digit proportion of newly eligible voters. The youngest potential voters are also transforming the electorate in regions like the Midwest, where 78% of all residents over 18 are white, compared to 70% of youth ages 18-19.
New Voters Can Decide Elections—If Campaigns Reach Them
The higher share of youth of color among newly eligible voters has potentially large implications for 2022 midterm results. In recent election cycles, young people of color—especially Black and Asian youth—have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates. At the same time, it may also present challenges. While youth of color have improved their voter turnout in recent years, they have still voted at a lower rate than white youth.
Overall, newly eligible voters (ages 18-19) have historically voted at slightly lower rates than their slightly older (ages 20-29) peers. These new potential voters can face barriers to electoral participation related to having to learn to register for the first time, or the election happening as they’re moving to a new place for college or for a job. The youngest members of the electorate are also more likely to be ignored by political campaigns, which often rely on voter rolls and lists of past/likely voters that systematically include those who are new to the electorate Moreover, as our CIRCLE Growing Voters report highlights, many of these young people did not have the opportunity to learn about voting and elections in school.
Understanding the characteristics of new voters in different parts of the country, the challenges to engaging them, and their potential to influence election results is key to growing them into voters. Given their racial/ethnic diversity, it’s also vital for expanding the electorate and creating a more equitable, multiracial democracy.
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.