Young Democrat Voters’ Enthusiasm Waned During Midterms

Younger voters who have been critical to Democrat successes in recent elections showed during November midterms signs that their enthusiasm has waned. This disinterest may be a potential warning sign for Democrats, who will need solid backing heading toward the 2024 presidential race. 

Voters under 30 voted 53% for Democrat House candidates compared to only 41% for Republican candidates across the country. According to a national survey of the electorate by APVoteCast, the level of support has fallen compared to 2020. Voters in the 2020 presidential election supported President Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 61% to 36%. In 2018, Democrats used a midterm surge to take back control of Congress, with voters 18 to 29 voting for Democrats by 64% compared to 34% for Republicans. 

Nonetheless, the president’s party exceeded midterm expectations, holding onto control of the Senate and giving up only a slight Republican majority in the House. Despite Biden’s proclamation that the young voter turnout was “historic,” the trend line for younger voters may be an early indication that Democrats will have a challenge maintaining a coalition of women, college-educated voters, city dwellers, Black people, and suburbanites that has helped buoy the party in the years following Trump’s White House win.

Any weaknesses in any part of that voting bloc could have implications during the upcoming 2024 presidential race. Biden will be close to his 82nd birthday on Election Day 2024 and has confirmed his plans to run again. Donald Trump, who is 76, has already announced his candidacy.

“There might have been retrenchment in youth voters,” said a political science professor at the University of Florida, Michael McDonald. McDonald is also an expert on data and voting. 

McDonald cautioned against reading too much into what could be a blip on the election radar. He also said that issues like high inflation had hit younger people particularly hard as their wages are not as likely to increase quickly enough to keep up with rising prices. 

Weak partisan attachments held by younger voters

“Youngest people also have the weakest partisan attachments so that they can be more susceptible to partisan swings nationally,” said McDonald. “There’s no reason why Republicans can’t rebound among younger people.”

According to VoteCast, only about a quarter of Dems under 30 say that being a Democrat is “very” or “extremely” important to them, compared to around a third of older Democrats. 

In Pennsylvania, Democrat Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman defeated Republican heart surgeon candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz in the contest for Senate. He benefitted from voters ages 18 to 44, securing 62% of the vote. In the gubernatorial race, Democrat Josh Shapiro won, outpacing Biden’s 2020 support, earning 64% in the age group. 

States allowing last-minute registrations didn’t lift Democrats. The candidates outperformed the margins seen by Biden among voters under 45 in some critical races. This includes governors’ races in Nevada and New Hampshire, which allow registration through Election Day. 

VoteCast found that around half of young voters in the more competitive states said the reversal of Roe v. Wade significantly impacted their decision to turn up to the polls. In Michigan, where an amendment to protect abortion rights constitutionally passed, almost half of voters under 45 said they felt “angry” about the overturn of Roe.

The data found by VoteCast showed that 36% of all voters under 45 identify as progressive Democrats, compared to 20% of older voters. Younger voters, particularly those under 30, were more likely to say immigrants help the U.S. more than hurt and that racism in the country is a severe issue.

The results from VoteCast show that younger voters are not enamored with either party. In areas where Democratic support among young voters was solid, voters 18 to 44 tended to be less excited about candidates they gave their support to than older voters.