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Youth Are Not a Monolith: How Different Young People Voted in 2022

Youth's voting preferences in the midterm election were shaped by their identities and experiences

Lead Author: Peter de Guzman
Contributors: Ruby Belle Booth, Kelly Beadle, Abby Kiesa, Alberto Medina


Young people are the most diverse generation in American history, and they bring that diversity into their civic and political engagement. It is reflected in how they engage with, prioritize, and take positions on issues. It is also often reflected in their vote choice, with stark differences in support for Democrats or Republicans by different groups of young people. In the 2022 election, young people’s preference for Democratic candidates was almost universal, but with close Senate, Governor, and House elections deciding the balance of power in the United States, the larger or smaller margins from diverse groups of youth proved influential in key races.

Our analysis of the National Election Pool Survey conducted by Edison Research allows us to break down the youth vote by various demographic characteristics. Among young people who cast a ballot, we find:

  • Young women’s preference for Democratic candidates was far higher than that of young men. Nationally, 71% of young women voted for a Democratic House candidate, compared to 53% of young men.
  • Black (87%) and Latino (67%) youth gave Democrats stronger support than white youth (57%).
  • Among both young men and young women, there was only a single-digit gap in vote choice between youth with and without a college degree.
  • LGBT youth made up 21% of all young voters and had the largest vote choice gap of any group of youth: 93% for Democrats and 5% for Republicans.
  • Among groups of youth for which we have data, only urbanicity emerged as a major difference in vote choice: 64% of youth in rural areas voted for a Republican House candidate, and 33% for a Democrat.

Young Women, LGBT Youth Give Democratic Party Major Support

Throughout the summer we tracked as abortion rose among young people’s issue priorities. Indeed, according to exit polls, it was the top issue that influenced young people’s vote in the 2022 midterms. Young women were more likely than young men to prioritize the issue and that was reflected in their national vote choice for the House of Representatives: 71% for Democrats vs. 26% for Republicans. Among young men, 53% voted for a Democrat and 42% for a Republican.

Those numbers represent a double-digit shift in young women’s vote choice compared to the previous midterm election, when 58% of young women voted for a Democrat in the House, and 40% for a Republican. Young female voters in 2022 were also more likely to identify with the Democratic Party. Nearly half (46%) of young women identified as Democrats, compared to approximately one in three (34%) young men. 

All youth, but especially young women, prioritized abortion as a 2022 election issue, which may have also been reflected in various statewide ballot questions. In the five states with abortion-rights-related proposals (CA, KY, MI, MT, VT), voters protected existing access to abortion and did not support measures that would limit abortion access.

Even more remarkable was the vote choice of LGBT youth. Approximately one in five (21%) of youth identified as LGBT and 93% of them reported voting for a Democratic House candidate, a much higher rate than the approximately two in three (65%) of youth overall who reported doing so. Nearly six in ten (59%) LGBT youth identified as Independents, or with neither the Republican or Democratic Party, nearly double the proportion of non-LGBT youth who identify as Independent (31%). By contrast the percentage of LGBT youth who identify as Democrats (40%) is nearly the same as that of youth overall.

Democratic Vote Strongest Among Youth of Color–Especially Women

As in recent election cycles, in 2022, most young people of color reported voting for a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. 87% of Black youth and 67% of Latino youth preferred a Democratic House candidate. Data for young people of other races/ethnicities was not available.

The vote choice of white youth, who in previous elections had either preferred Republicans or backed Democrats by much smaller margins, also benefited Democratic House candidates in 2022. 57% of white youth preferred Democratic candidates for the House, compared to the approximately four in ten (39%) who preferred a Republican candidate. 

When we combine the trends by race and gender, we find that while every group voted for Democrats, young women of color gave Democrats the strongest support. 89% of young Black women and 79% of young Latino women voted for a Democratic House candidate, and 64% of young white women did the same.

Nearly six in ten (57%) young Latino men voted for a Democrat for the U.S. House. Even young white men, who had been the subgroup most likely to vote GOP, this time preferred Democrats by a slim margin (49% voted for a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, compared to 45% who voted for a Republican candidate). Data for young Black men was not available.

Gap in Vote Choice by College Degree Narrow Among Youth

One major political trend in recent cycles has been the growing gap in party preference between voters with and without a college degree. That can often look slightly different among young voters in the 18-29 age group, many of whom are still in the process of getting a degree or may do so in the future but, for the moment, are in the “no degree” category.

That said, among youth in 2022, the gap between the vote choice of youth with and without a college degree was only single digits. For young men it was especially small: 55% of young men with a college degree voted for a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House, compared to 52% of young men without a college degree. Meanwhile, 75% of young women with a college degree voted for a Democrat, compared to 68% of young women. 

More research is required to accurately represent the views and experiences of youth with various levels of educational attainment and experience. Next month, our exclusive post-election youth survey will examine the role of education in youth engagement in more depth.

Urban/Rural Divide: Rural Youth Prefer Republicans

The one demographic characteristic where there was a major difference in party preference among young voters’ was the type of community they live in. Young people in rural areas or from cities with fewer than 50,000 people supported Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives by 64% to 33%, a remarkable difference that’s nearly the inverse of the vote choice of urban/suburban youth and of young people overall.

That said, white youth are overrepresented among young people living in rural communities, and there were likely major differences within rural youth that the available 2022 data did not allow us to analyze. For example, our research on the 2020 election found large gaps between the vote choice of young white voters and young voters of color in rural areas.

Suburban youth favored Democratic House candidates and identified with the Democratic Party at similar rates to urban youth. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of suburban youth said they voted for a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, compared to 68% of urban youth. 44% of suburban youth identified with the Democratic Party, a similar rate to urban youth (42%). 

Only 18% of rural youth identified as Democrats, compared to 40% of youth overall. However, approximately twice as many rural youth (37%) identified as Independent or with neither the Democratic or Republican Party. 

Rural youth were also more likely to say that they voted on Election Day, and were the only group of young voters to report this preference over early or mail-in voting methods. Sixty percent of rural youth reported voting on Election Day, compared to 41% of suburban youth and 38% of urban youth. In addition, 15% reported voting early in person, compared to 16% of all youth.

The difference in vote method preference by urbanicity is most evident in the share of rural youth that reported voting by mail. Only 25% of rural youth reported voting by mail, compared to 42% of all youth and nearly half (47%) of urban youth.

About the Analysis: Our analysis is based on data from the National Election Pool Exit Poll conducted by Edison Research. In the United States a total of 18,571 voters who cast ballots on Election Day were interviewed at 241 Election Day polling places and 72 early in-person voting locations. This survey also includes 1,425 absentee and/or early voters interviewed by telephone using a registration-based sample (RBS). The National Election Pool members (ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC) prepared the questionnaire. An upper bound on the error due to sampling for a 95% confidence interval is +/- 4%. Data on smaller subsamples may have larger margins of error

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.