Young Voters, Early Vote & 2020 Elections

With less than three weeks until polls close and with more than 15 million voters already casting their ballots, pundits are starting to parse what voting trends might say about the outcome of the general election. As Prof. Michael McDonald notes, we expect to see Democratic pundits and strategists starting to ask questions about young voters’ turnout rates. While NextGen America continues to focus on maximizing youth turnout in the final stretch before November 3rd, it’s important to set the record straight on facts about young voters.

FACT: Young voters tend to vote late — and are more likely to vote in-person than by mail. As we’ve been warning all summer long, young people tend to cast their ballots closer to Election Day. A clear example of this trend comes from 2018’s congressional elections here in California. The below chart shows the percent of ballots cast per day by different age groups in Rep. Josh Harder (top) and Rep. Katie Porter’s (bottom) historic wins in California last year. The closer you get to Election Day, young people (the blue line) clearly were a larger share of votes cast.

Source: PDI Absentee Ballot Tracker, Timeseries by Demographic

Furthermore, our latest battleground state tracking poll suggests that only 40% of young voters plan on voting-by-mail, so we anticipate youth turnout to increase once in-person early voting becomes more widely available and on Election Day.

FACT: More “sporadic” voting young people are showing up than at this time in 2016. While older voters are casting their ballots early at record rates, many of these voters are folks who are “super voters” who are just changing their method of casting a ballot. Analysis from Democratic data firms like TargetSmart and Catalist show that young people who have either never voted before or are “sporadic” voters are actually a larger share of all votes than in 2016:

FACT: Young voters are supporting Joe Biden at record margins — and are more motivated to vote than ever before. Both public and internal polls show young voters supporting Joe Biden by 30 to 35pts over Donald Trump, both nationally and in key battleground states (like AZ, WI, or FL). In some states, Biden is on track to triple or quadruple Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory amongst young voters. This remarkable support from young voters puts Biden in the same territory as Barack Obama’s historic level of support from young voters in 2008.

Beyond this support, many polls have found young people more motivated to vote than ever before, with NextGen America’s September battleground youth poll finding 56% of young voters “10-out-of-10” extremely motivated to vote. The Harvard IOP’s Fall 2020 youth poll similarly finds that 63% of young Americans say they are “definitely voting,” up 16 points from four years ago. This combination of historic support levels and increased motivation is a huge sign that the youth vote could power a monumental Democratic wave this Fall.

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