Quick Hit Ellyn Fortino Friday September 11th, 2015, 10:10am

Analysis: Youth Voter Turnout Hit All-Time Low In 2014 Midterms

recent analysis shows nationwide youth voter registration and turnout in last year's midterm elections hit record low levels.

In the 2014 midterms, just 46.7 percent of young people aged 18 to 29 registered to vote, and only 19.9 percent of them voted, according to the analysis by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE). That's a non-partisan research center on youth engagement at Tufts University's Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.

Last year's youth voter registration and turnout numbers, based on recently released U.S. Census Bureau data, are the lowest on record since 1972, the first presidential year in which 18- to 20-year-olds were eligible to vote. 

But young voters weren't the only ones who stayed home on Election Day last year. Voter turnout in the 2014 midterms was abysmal across the board. Only 41.9 percent of eligible voters voted, which represents the lowest turnout rate since the U.S. Census Bureau first began collecting the information in 1978.

Although the 2014 youth vote reached an all-time low, CIRCLE researchers say it was similar to previous midterm years. In 2010, for example, voter turnout among 18- to 29-years-olds was 24 percent.

Youth turnout rates are higher during presidential elections. Still, CIRCLE's Director Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg said last year's numbers should be of concern to the contenders vying for the White House in 2016.

"Recent elections have shown the potential power of young voters to influence an election," Kawashima-Ginsberg said in a statement. "[T]his new analysis should be received as a warning signal to all 2016 presidential candidates."

CIRCLE experts offered some possible factors behind the 2014 decline in the youth turnout rate. 

First, the report notes that many states since 2010 have enacted laws making it harder for young people to vote, including measures requiring voters to produce government-issued photo identification at the polls.

Also, 12.4 million youth were "under-mobilized" last year, meaning they were registered to vote but did not cast a ballot. It's possible that young people weren't being "mobilized" by political advertising and canvassing efforts, the report says. Or, the advertising youth voters did see could have turned them off from participating.

Researchers also say young people may have opted out of the midterms because neither political party had a message or agenda that resonated with them.

Lastly, campaigns could be contacting fewer young people and depending on them less for volunteering efforts.

"If future campaigns are interested in mobilizing large numbers of young voters, research shows that campaigns not only need to talk to them, but should also involve them more as well as volunteers," Kawashima-Ginsberg added. "In fact, the rate of youth turnout in presidential elections corresponds with rate of campaign contact."


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