My colleagues at Tisch College’s Institute for Democracy and Higher Education have released their national report on the 2020 election, which is based on voting records of students enrolled at about 1,050 colleges and universities in the United States. As IDHE director Nancy Thomas says in the front-page Boston Globe feature, the turnout increase was “quite stunning.” It was also quite consistent across different types of institutions, fields of study, and demographic groups. For instance, white men, black men, social science or history majors, business majors, students at private liberal arts colleges, and students at public PhD-granting universities all showed increases of between 14 points and 17 points.
We estimate that 50% of young people, ages 18-29, voted in the 2020 presidential election, a remarkable 11-point increase from 2016 (39%) and likely one of the highest rates of youth electoral participation since the voting age was lowered to 18. …
However, as is the case in every election cycle, youth voter turnout rates varied widely across the country: New Jersey (67%), Minnesota (65%), Colorado (64%) and Maine (61%) had the highest statewide youth turnout rates, while South Dakota (32%), Oklahoma (34%), Arkansas (35%), and New Mexico (39%) had the lowest. ..
Numerous interconnected factors shape whether youth electoral participation is high or low. These include the competitiveness of elections, how much (or how little) campaigns and organizations reach out to young people, the state’s civic culture and civic education policies, the demographic composition of the youth population, and state voting laws … that can either facilitate voting or pose barriers for youth. ….
Understanding the effect of electoral policies on youth turnout is especially relevant at a time when the U.S. Congress is considering HR1: For the People Act of 2021. This bill would standardize some election laws across the country and nationally establish: automatic voter registration (AVR), online voter registration (OVR), same-day or Election-Day registration (SDR), early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, pre-registration, and requirements for voter registration programming in high schools. ….
We divided states into those with a majority of the electoral policies in HR1 and those with few of the policies, and we found that, on average, states with more of these policies had higher youth turnout. States with four or more of the HR1 policies had a combined youth turnout rate of 53%, compared to 43% turnout from states with less than four policies. It appears likely that a number of policies complement each other to create a system and culture of voting that is more conducive to youth participation, and the lack of them may have the opposite effect.
Latinos preferred Biden over Trump by 65%-32% according to the exit polls. There is some debate about that statistic, but it seems safe to say that Latinos tilt Democratic, yet somewhat less so than they did in the recent past.
We also know that people who consider their own whiteness important to their identity are more likely to support Trump. In the Tufts Equity study, whites who consider race important to their own identity favored Trump by 61.5%-31%, whereas Trump’s lead among other whites was just 5 points (47%-42%: less than a majority).
In this context, it seems significant that a majority of Hispanics identify as white, and a substantial proportion–one quarter in the 2012 American National Election Study (ANES)–say that being white is important to their identity.
I get that last statistic from Filindra and Kolbe 2020. These authors find that Latinos are more likely to identify as white if they have higher incomes, and less likely to identify as white if they have more education and if they report strong consciousness as Latinos. (Possibly, education increases social awareness.) Latinos are more likely to be Republicans and to support cuts in welfare if they identify as white.
These are not mere correlations but the results of models that control for numerous other variables. It is equally interesting that some variables do not seem to matter, e.g., religion, skin tone (albeit known for only some respondents), and whether one was born in the US or overseas. The degree of acculturation is related to views of welfare but not to other measures.
Filindra and Kolbe use 2012 ANES data, and I was interested in change since then. In a nutshell, I find no important shifts. My graphs below show rates of identifying as conservative and as liberal in the ANES since 2000. (Moderates are not shown, although they are the largest group.) Whites who are not Hispanic are the most conservative, and at a steady rate. However, they have also become the most likely to identify as liberal (at the expense of moderates). Hispanics who identify as white have been somewhat less conservative than other whites. And Hispanics who do not identify as white have not been statistically different from those who do.
CIRCLE has released a national survey of 2,645 eligible voters under 30 conducted between Nov. 3 and Dec. 2, 2020. Their release emphasizes that young people–especially those who supported Joe Biden–were highly engaged in the campaign, with nearly half talking to others about voting.
CIRCLE also notes the salience of anti-racism: “68% said they saw voting as a way to stop violence against people of color, 56% talked to peers about how racism affects society, and 57% say they took action for racial justice in their communities.“
I was interested in the differences and similarities between young people who supported Trump and Biden (the latter being much more numerous). As shown below, they are indistinguishable on some economic issues. They differ a lot on “law and order,” immigration, racist violence, climate, and taxing the rich. However, it’s worth noting that 44% of young Trump voters favor reducing violence against people of color and more than a third want to move to renewable energy.
The Monmouth University Poll released on Nov. 19 asked people (among other questions), whether Trump has done more than other presidents to undermine or to uphold the Constitution, whether respondents fear what their political opponents would do to the country, and whether Donald Trump has “drained the swamp” or made corruption worse. Here are the responses by age group.
Young people are the least likely to think that Trump upheld the Constitution, least afraid of their opponents governing, and most likely to believe that Trump worsened corruption.
I suppose reasonable people might debate these questions. A very conservative person might believe that Trump’s judicial appointments are saving the Constitution. A thoughtful progressive might fear what Trumpian Republicans would do to the country.
But generally, we would want people to answer these questions in the negative. Citizens should know that Trump disparages the Constitution, that it’s important to cede power when opponents win elections, and that the forms of corruption reported during the Trump administration are deeply problematic.
Of course, everyone needs civic education. The young need it most because they are the future and because they must be equipped to become more effective as citizens. But if you want to know who demonstrates the greatest deficits in basic civic dispositions, it is not the young.