CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

UPDATED – Total Youth Votes in 2016 Primaries and Caucuses

April 28th, 2016
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Updated on April 28, 2016

Young people, ages 17-29, continue to vote in high numbers during the 2016 primaries and caucuses. In Republican contests, youth have broken participation records in nearly every state for which we have data, while in Democratic primaries overwhelming youth support for Senator Bernie Sanders helped him launch a serious challenge to Hillary Clinton.  As Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump solidify their status as the front-runners, we thought it would be informative to visualize how young people have voted so far across all primaries and caucuses.

The graph below shows the cumulative total of youth who have voted for each remaining candidate in the 2016 primary season. The graph only includes states where a youth vote count could be estimated for each candidate in both parties’ contests. Click the graph to enlarge.


In the 20 states for which we have data, nearly 2 million young people have voted for Senator Sanders, almost three times more youth votes than any other candidate in either party. Secretary Donald Trump has received the second-largest number of youth votes, 747,000, while Secretary Clinton is close behind with 727,000. More youth have voted for Senator Sanders than for Clinton and Trump combined.

Given Senator Sanders’ dominance among youth, many wonder whether Secretary Clinton will be able to tap into their support in the general election—should she go on to become the nominee. A majority of them will, according to a recent poll by Rock the Vote and USA Today, which found that 65% of Senator Sanders’ supporters would turn out for Secretary Clinton in the general election. On the other hand, according to the study, 29% will either sit the election out or vote for Trump instead. That number may concern the Clinton campaign, since the youth vote has been a crucial factor in past presidential elections, and it is expected to play a large role again in 2016. Getting just 65% of Senator Sanders’ current young supporters may spell trouble for Secretary Clinton in the general election, especially in key swing states where decisive youth support for a Democratic candidate has proven critical.

At the same time, while he has received more youth votes than any remaining Republican candidate, Donald Trump has also been far from embraced by youth. However, there is no clear indication of what young Republican voters who have supported other candidates will do should Trump be on the ballot on November 8.

Whether the front-runners lock up their respective parties’ nominations in the coming weeks, or the races drag on until the conventions, it is critical to continue watching who young people support in these primary elections. We will update the above graph with additional data as voters in more states go to the polls.

Find more analysis in our 2016 Election Center. For regular updates in your Inbox about youth and the 2016 election, sign up for CIRCLE’s monthly E-Update here.

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