Did Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X outvote older generations in 2018 General Election?

Anna Baringer

Authors: Michael P. McDonald, Anna Baringer

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Michael McDonald

College:  College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Abstract

It is well-known that younger people vote at lower rates than their elders. Nevertheless, recent news coverage suggests that Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X accounted for a narrow majority of voters in the 2018 General Election. This claim, however, and much of what scholars know about the relationship between age and turnout, is drawn from respondents’ self-reported answers to survey questions, which can be affected by survey methodology issues. Through innovative methods, we construct a new measure of citizen turnout rates by age using administrative records. The numerator is drawn from voter registration files and the denominator from Census Bureau data. We analyze 2018 citizen turnout rates by age for twenty states. We find that while the youngest generations cast less than half of all ballots in the 2018 election, the Baby Boomers and Silent generations still accounted for a majority share of votes.

Poster Pitch

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Michael McDonald
Michael McDonald (@guest_400)
1 year ago

Great job Anna!

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_442)
Reply to  Michael McDonald
1 year ago

Thank you, Dr. McDonald!

Juan Leon
Juan Leon (@guest_662)
1 year ago

Why do you think the CPS bias most heavily affects younger voter estimates as opposed to just affecting all other voter groups?

Michael McDonald
Michael McDonald (@guest_780)
Reply to  Juan Leon
1 year ago

Older people have higher turnout rates, so there is less room for an upward bias from saying they voted when they really did not.

Juan Leon
Juan Leon (@guest_944)
Reply to  Michael McDonald
1 year ago

Great, thanks!

Also, fantastic job Anna!

Daniel Smith
Daniel Smith (@guest_664)
1 year ago

Excellent research and presentation, Anna. Looking forward to this being published!

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_988)
Reply to  Daniel Smith
1 year ago

Thanks so much, Dr. Smith!

Brandon Navarro
Brandon Navarro (@guest_876)
1 year ago

What states were you collecting data from?

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_956)
Reply to  Brandon Navarro
1 year ago

We collected voter files from 20 states, listed here: FL, NC, OK, NY, ID, WA, PA, MT, IA, OR, NV, OH, CT, GA, UT, MO, TX, CO, VT, and SD

Thanks for your question!

Sara Loving
Sara Loving (@guest_904)
1 year ago

This is super cool! Good job Anna!

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_1014)
Reply to  Sara Loving
1 year ago

Thanks so much, Sara!

Annelise Lund
Annelise Lund (@guest_1002)
1 year ago

This is a great presentation, Anna, good job! So why did you decide to focus on this particular topic?

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_1222)
Reply to  Annelise Lund
1 year ago

Good question, Annelise! As I am sure you can imagine, there are a lot of different applications for our data when it comes to studying questions of turnout by age. We decided to present our methods using this topic in particular as we thought it would make for a succinct poster presentation and hopefully be a topic people were interested in learning about.

Michael McDonald
Michael McDonald (@guest_1390)
Reply to  Anna Baringer
1 year ago

We examine how state laws and campaign conditions affect the structure of turnout by age, too!

Sharon Austin
Sharon Austin (@guest_1170)
1 year ago

Excellent research. Do you think younger voters will vote at higher rates than older voters in 2020?

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_1446)
Reply to  Sharon Austin
1 year ago

Great question! Although I cannot exactly predict what will happen in 2020 (especially with coronavirus now having an impact), it is only a matter of time before younger generations outvote their elders, as of course, it is true that younger people are getting older and will likely vote at higher rates with age.

Catherine Martinez
Catherine Martinez (@guest_1440)
1 year ago

Very interesting, Anna! If you were to make a prediction, would you say that younger voters will continue to make up a small percentage of the people that vote in upcoming elections, or do you think that the number of young voters will increase over time?

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_1934)
Reply to  Catherine Martinez
1 year ago

Thanks for your question, Catherine! As younger people age, the particular generations that we examined here (Gen Z, Millenials, and Gen X) will, of course, make up a larger share of votes cast in any election. Whether or not the youngest voters in every election will have higher turnout in the future is a more difficult question, however. Although, I definitely hope so!

With the same methods we explained here we also looked at the effect that different electoral laws have on lessening the turnout gap between younger and older voters. Essentially, we found persistent lower youth turnout in even the best of circumstances.

William Zelin
William Zelin (@guest_2452)
1 year ago

Great work, as always!

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_2562)
Reply to  William Zelin
1 year ago

Thanks so much, Will! Looking forward to checking out your project at 3pm.

Jenna Tingum
Jenna Tingum (@guest_2680)
1 year ago

Very exciting work, Anna! Looking forward to seeing this research published and developed further in the future. Awesome job!

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_2900)
Reply to  Jenna Tingum
1 year ago

Thanks a bunch, Jenna! Excited to check out your work as well – although I’m sure it’s great.

Lauren
Lauren (@guest_2746)
1 year ago

I’m really impressed with this research. Why do you think it is that the older generation outvotes the younger generation?

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_3220)
Reply to  Lauren
1 year ago

Thanks, Lauren! Scholars have lots of theories as to why young people have chronically lower turnout. Some believe that young people have not yet experienced life events that are correlated with turnout (such as marriage) or that young people are simply not interested in candidates who tend to be older. Others believe it is electoral laws or geographic mobility that make it more difficult for young people to vote. We are hoping that our new method of calculating citizen turnout can help researchers better isolate the conditions that encourage young people to vote.

Carolyn Muldowney
Carolyn Muldowney (@guest_3040)
1 year ago

Very interesting! Do you think this will continue to always be a trend or will voter turnout change in the future? Has mass media had any effect on generational voter turnout from the past decade or has it remained relatively the same?

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_3558)
Reply to  Carolyn Muldowney
1 year ago

Thank you, Carolyn! Of course, I am hoping that this will change, although I am not sure how. Using the same methods we explained in this poster, we also examined the effect that different electoral laws have on lessening the turnout gap between younger and older voters. Essentially, we found persistent lower youth turnout in even the best of circumstances, which is unfortunate.

According to surveys, youth turnout has actually decreased in recent decades. You can take a look at the CPS estimates of turnout by age from 1964–2012 here: https://www.census.gov/prod/2014pubs/p20-573.pdf

Jessica Weber
Jessica Weber (@guest_3264)
1 year ago

This is very interesting! Do you think that the number of younger voters will increase in the upcoming general election? If so, do you think this trend will continue in the future?

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_3768)
Reply to  Jessica Weber
1 year ago

Thanks, Jessica! Young people turning out less than their elders is surprisingly consistent over time. I am not sure what conditions would have to hold for young people to increase turnout, but I am hoping that our new methodology can help researchers answer that. For example, we also examined the effect that different electoral laws have on lessening the turnout gap between younger and older voters. Unfortunately, we found persistent lower youth turnout in even the best of circumstances. Hopefully, as we continue to collect data in the coming elections, we will be able to better isolate the electoral conditions and policies which boost youth turnout.

Emily Boykin
Emily Boykin (@guest_4446)
1 year ago

I’m with the other comments and applaud the work you and Dr. McDonald have done. I hope the publishing journey is smooth once this goes out!

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_6796)
Reply to  Emily Boykin
1 year ago

Thanks a bunch, Emily! Loved being able to view your work as well.

Madeline
Madeline (@guest_4502)
1 year ago

Great poster and pitch, Anna. Do you think social desirability bias is part of the over report bias for younger generations?

Anna Baringer
Anna Baringer (@guest_6912)
Reply to  Madeline
1 year ago

Hi Madeline! Thanks for your question. I think social desirability bias definitely plays a role in overreporting for all ages. As Dr. McDonald commented above, we believe it is most prominent among young voters since they have lower turnout rates and therefore have more room for an upward bias from saying they voted when they really did not.