Close Menu

Texans Under Age 40: Concerned about Health Care, Believe in Effecting Change

Our exclusive poll also finds that campaign outreach in the state has gone mostly to those who have voted in primaries before, with even less outreach to Latinos than to White Texans

Our exclusive CIRCLE poll of Texans under the age of 40 found a number of challenges and opportunities for political engagement in the Lone Star State. In our initial analysis of the poll, we shared that there has been a lower rate of electoral outreach to  Millennial and Gen Z Texans, particularly to Latinos and to the youngest eligible voters (ages 18-29). Our research shows there’s a lot of room for campaigns, parties, and organizations to increase their  outreach to young people in a state that may prove crucial in  the Democratic primaries, in which Texas awards the third-largest delegate trove. Some analysts believe that Texas may also be in more “in play” this November than in previous years: the closely contested 2018 Senate election between Sen Ted Cruz and Beto O’ Rourke highlighted political shifts in the state which some measures of partisan lean show moving from “solid” to “likely” Republican.

In this new analysis we dig deeper on how contact and electoral outreach to young people is both dependent on vote history and still lower for Millennial and Gen Z Latinos even if they have voted before. We also examine under-40 Texans’ issue priorities and belief in their own ability to achieve positive social and community change..

Some of our top findings are:

  • If White Texans under age 40 had voted in primaries before, they were more likely to be contacted multiple times by campaigns or organzatons: 30% compared to 21% among those who have never voted before. However, among Latino Texans under 40, only 18% were contacted multiple times (if they had voted before) and just 3% (if they had not).
  • More than 3 out of 4 young Texans (76%) feel that they have the power to change things in this country, with no meaningful difference by  race/ethnicity (77% Latinos; 74% White Texans). This sentiment is shared more widely among Texans  ages 18-29 (82%) than among those  ages 30-39 (70%).
  • While other issues ranked nearly as high, accessibility and affordability of family health care was the top priority among  Millennial and Gen Z Texans, with 18% saying it was their most important issue. Younger Texans (ages 18-29) were slightly more likely to say this was their top priority (21%).
  • Other issues highlighted differences by race/ethnicity: 22% of Latinos said immigration is the most important issue that would influence their vote, compared to just 9% of White Texans.

Challenges to Growing Voters of All Ideologies in Texas

While more specific issues can exist in certain communities, in Texas we see challenges that youth of all ideologies can face when aging into the electorate. For those new to elections, outreach from candidates and other groups can be critical to knowing basic information about the voting process and about candidates, or to youth developing an understanding that their vote is valuable. As we highlighted previously, outreach and contact by political parties and campaigns has been abysmally low to Millennial and Gen Z Texans, and particularly to Latinos. One of the challenges to expanding the electorate is that outreach and education efforts are traditionally focused on individuals who  have voted before, and that appears to be especially the case this year in Texas.

Our poll finds that Millennial and Gen Z Texans who have voted in a primary before are 15 percentage points more likely to have been personally contacted multiple times in the last six months by a campaign, political party, or any other organization that supports candidates: (25% vs. 10%). Even so, more than half (54%) of Millennial and Gen Z Texans who have voted in presidential primaries before had still not been contacted at all this year; among those who haven’t voted before, 85% have not been contacted. This trend holds true across partisan lines for Texas under age 40, 26% of whom identify as Republicans, 39% as Democrats and 24% are unaffiliated.

This overreliance on past voter history is particularly challenging because new and younger voters may have very different issue priorities and concerns than older generations, and if they don’t feel connected to candidates or the voting process entire communities can lose out on “growing voters” and engaging youth in the democratic process. Other aspects of elections in the state may also hinder growing voters. For example, while in some states 17-year-olds can vote in the primary if they will be 18 by the time of the general election, that’s not the case in Texas.The state does allow for pre-registration by 17-year-olds, it is restricted to those who are within two months of their 18th birthday. This does not create a facilitative environment for young people to learn and register to vote.

Racial/ethnic disparities in campaign outreach pose an additional challenge to creating a broader, more equitable electorate. Overall, 75% of Latinos and 60% of White Texans under age 40 have not been contacted in the last six months, and race/ethnicity seemed to matter even more than previous voting.Among  White Texans under 40, 30% of those who have voted in primaries have been contacted multiple times in this election season, compared to 21% of those who have not voted in primaries before. Among Texas Latinos under 40, those rates are 18% and 3%, respectively, meaning that even Latinos who have voted before are being contacted at lower rates than Whites who have not voted before. This is troubling in a state with a significant Latinpo pulation that not only has the power to influence elections but, as we explore later, also has different issue priorities.

Millennial and Gen Z Texans Believe in their Power to Achieve Change

In national polling during the 2018 election cycle, CIRCLE research found a strong relationship between young people’s belief that the election would affect everyday issues in their community and their likelihood to vote. Among the under-40 in our recent poll, that sentiment is alive and well: two-thirds of respondents say that the 2020 election will have a significant influence on everyday issues, including 71% among Latinos. Millennial and Gen Z Texans who have voted in presidential primaries before were also more likely than those who haven’t voted previously to feel that the 2020 primaries will affect everyday issues in their community: 70% vs. 60%.

In addition, more than 3 out of 4 Texans under age 40 (76%) feel that they have the power to change things in this country, with no meaningful difference by race/ethnicity (77% Latinos; 75% White Texans) . This sentiment is shared more widely among Texans ages 18-29 (82%) than among those ages 30-39 (70%).

A majority of under-40 Texans (56%) also say they feel like part of a group or movement whose members can vote to express their views and have political influence. In this case, the sentiment is more prevalent among Whites (58%) than Latinos (49%).Taken overall, these findings paint a picture of  younger generations who see the potential of their collective efforts and who feel they can vote in order to change political outcomes.

We know from our research and partnerships that young people respond well to peer-to-peer interactions and to seeing other young people talk about social and political issues. Our poll finds that 57% of under-40 Texans have seen an increase in such discussions in their communities. That’s especially the case among younger Texans (ages 18-29), two-thirds of whom saw an uptick in young people discussing critical issues (66%) , which is 18 percentage points higher than among Texans ages 30-39 (48%). Furthermore, more than 1 in 3 Millenial and Gen Z Texans (35%) reported that other young people have reached out to them about political issues and elections . This is particularly true for Latinos in our poll (33%) compared to White Texans (29%). Here too, there are gaps between those who have previously voted in primaries and those who have not, with 42% of previous voters receiving outreach from their peers, compared to  just 24% of those who haven’t voted in primaries before.

Health Care Top Issue Overall for Texans Under-40; Immigration Top for Latinos

Young people often have different issue priorities than voters from older generations. But even among young people there can be a lot of diverse viewpoints based on identity, ideology, and experience. Case in point, among all Millennial and Gen Z Texans in our poll, no single issue was selected as the most important in determining their vote by more than 20% of all respondents—though the fact that respondents could choose from 14 options likely played a role.  The accessibility and affordability of family health care topped the list: it was selected by 18%. This was particularly true for younger people (ages 18-29), 21% of whom chose it as their top issue. The other top issues among all our respondents were immigration (14%), the environment (12%), tax rates (6%), and a lack of well paying jobs (6%). As with health care, climate change and concern for the environment was selected more frequently by Texans ages 18-29 (14%) than by Texans ages 30-39 (8%). 

While health care was a top concern for both  Latinos (20%) and Whites (16%) in our Texas poll, on immigration there was a substantial difference by race/ethnicity, with Latinos more than twice as likely as Whites to say it was the top issue influencing their vote: 22% vs. 9%.

Authors: Noorya Hayat, Abby Kiesa, Kristian Lundberg, Alberto Medina