Minnesota Young Voters Saw Turnout Surge in 2018
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Minnesota saw young voters between ages 18 and 29 nearly double their election participation last fall, but there's still room for the bloc of voters to grow.
Almost 40 percent of eligible voters ages 18 to 29 participated in the 2018 midterm election, up from 21 percent in 2014, according to data from the Minnesota Secretary of State. The 18 percentage point jump surpasses the 10 percentage point increase in turnout from voters ages 65 to 79, though older voters still show up in relatively higher numbers than young voters.
More than 80 percent of eligible voters between ages 65 and 79 participated in the state's last election, according to the data.
Minnesota's voter turnout last fall mirrors a pattern in the state since 1978, when the U.S. Census Bureau began tracking the age of voters casting ballots in midterm elections. Young voters continue to have the worst track record out of any age group in every election.
Dan Hofrenning, a political science professor at St. Olaf College in Northfield, called the surge in young voters "striking." He said the change will benefit Democrats since younger voters tend to be more liberal.
"It's clear that right now Millenials and Gen Xers are much more liberal than the rest of the electorate. Their House vote nationwide was 2-1 for Democrats," he said. "On social issues, they are quite liberal, and increasingly they are asking questions about the capitalist economy."
Hofrenning credits candidates such as Barack Obama in 2008 and Bernie Sanders in 2016 with successfully reaching and connecting with young voters.
"Issues like gun control, immigration, abortion or reproductive health, those are all issues that push young people into the Democratic column and also spur turnout," he said.
Hofrenning said it's not the first election that the trend has emerged, but he questioned whether the bloc of voters will continue to hold those views as they age.