Courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr under CC BY SA-2.0

A poll by Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics indicates that youth voter turnout is going to be similar to the heights it reached in the 2018 midterm elections. In 2020, there was an 11-point increase in youth participation — an increase that was a major player in the presidential election. The youth vote is largely seen as automatically in favor of Democratic interests as millennials and Gen-Z voters typically support more progressive stances and candidates. However, it’s becoming clear that young Republicans are very interested in participating in the coming elections, threatening the Democratic party’s precarious majority.

There has been a 7% increase in the young Republicans who plan to vote in 2022 since 2018 while there has been a 5% decrease for young Democrats. In the past, the problem hasn’t been trying to convince youth voters of progressive values, it’s been engaging participation at all. Mobilization of youth voters was considered a lost cause, but they responded when candidates focused on issues important to them like climate change and education. However, Biden’s diminishing approval rating due to a conceived inability to live up to campaign promises may be a factor in this decrease in participation.

There were concerns at the beginning of the 2020 presidential race due to Biden’s inability to connect and engage youth voters. It was his attention to youth-oriented issues and the desire to free America of his predecessor that led to Biden’s electoral success.

As America heads towards the midterm elections, the prospect of lower youth voter turnout is not a pretty one. On top of that, an increasing number of people harbor the belief that members of Congress are not interested in representing ordinary people, but rather elite interests. With a marginal majority in Congress, Democrats can’t afford to lose the support of this key demographic. The White House only has a matter of months to garner excitement for Democratic candidates.

The Biden administration is aware of the implications of decreased Democratic youth voter turnout and should consider engaging more on issues that directly concern the 18 to 29 age demographic. They cannot and do not underestimate the effect the youth voters had on the electoral college. In 2020, there was noticeably high youth voter engagement in 11 key battleground states which was game-changing for Biden who had a 61% rate of support from this group. Checking out of this process has very real costs that the American people can’t afford to pay. It’s certainly one that the Democratic party can’t.

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