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

Young People Favor Democratic House Candidates by Historic Margin, Data Continue to Suggest High Youth Participation for a Midterm

November 7th, 2018
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Note: The data below is current as of 9:00 a.m. ET on November 7.

CIRCLE’s election-night analysis of exit poll data suggests that young people made up a similar share of the electorate than in previous midterms (compared to the same data source in previous years), an impressive feat in what has all the signs of a high-turnout midterm among all age groups. Young people favored Democrats over Republicans by an overwhelming margin, and they helped key statewide Democratic candidates keep their races competitive late into the evening.

Young People Support Democrats by 2-to-1 Margin


On an Election Day when the Democratic Party took back control of the House of Representatives, young people (ages 18-29) offered their candidates an overwhelming level of support today. According to the preliminary national exit poll, 67% of youth cast their ballot for a Democratic House candidate, while 32% chose a Republican House candidate. That extraordinary 35 percentage point gap in support for Democrats over Republicans is about three times higher than it was in the 2014 midterms, when 54% of under-30 voters chose a Democrat, and 43% a Republican. It is, by far, the largest difference in vote choice among young people in the past quarter century.

Among young people of color, the support for Democratic candidates was even higher: 92% among African-American youth, and 80% among Latino youth. Meanwhile, white youth supported Democrats by a smaller margin than young people overall: 57% for Democrats vs. 42% for Republicans.


National youth vote choice as measured by the exit poll performs well against other national political surveys. The 2018 national youth vote choice closely mirrors the data from our pre-election poll of young people aged 18-24, which found that youth who said they were extremely likely to vote preferred a liberal candidate by a margin of 25 percentage points. In our survey, 62% of these extremely likely voters said they intended to vote for a Democrat or a progressive-leaning independent, and 37% for a Republican or a conservative/libertarian-leaning independent. Because, in most House contests, an independent candidate was not on the ballot, it’s probable that these preferences translated into support for a Democrat or a Republican.

Youth Share of All Votes Cast Similar to Previous Years


Young Americans made their voices heard at the ballot box in today’s midterm elections, as the preliminary national exit poll data indicate that 13% of all votes cast in 2018 House elections came from youth ages 18-29. That number, the youth share of the vote, matches the 13% share in 2014 and is generally similar to the number in the last six midterm cycles since 1994; indeed, the youth share has remained relatively steady, between 11% and 13%, in all those previous elections.

Even with the youth share remaining steady compared to recent midterms, it’s entirely possible—and perhaps even likely—that youth voter participation increased in this election, which seems to have inspired high voter turnout among all age groups. Young people may have voted at a higher rate than in recent midterms, while older voters improved their own voter turnout at the same rate.

You can read an explanation of the “youth share” statistic here. Also, it is important to note that preliminary national exit poll data may be adjusted in the coming days by Edison Research, which conducts the exit polls. The exit poll provides a quick snapshot of what the electorate looks like on election night and historical comparisons. Exit polls can overestimate youth share compared to data from voter files (which can underrepresent youth) and—to a lesser extent—to Census data (a large-scale survey, subject to error), both of which will become available in the coming months.

Tomorrow we will release our exclusive CIRCLE estimate of youth turnout in the 2018 midterm elections. Our turnout calculation, combined with the youth share and other exit poll data, will help us provide a clearer picture of young people’s participation in the midterms, and the impact they had in races across the country. Check back soon for more data and analysis.

Overwhelming Youth Support for Democrats Shapes Statewide Elections


Young voters played a crucial role in several key statewide races during today’s midterm elections, several of which were still too close to call as of this writing.

Young people can have a significant influence on elections, and especially on statewide races even when they don’t vote in extraordinary numbers because of differences in how youth have voted compared to other age groups. If their vote choice is combined with substantial participation their impact can be even greater.


In Wisconsin, young people favored Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers over incumbent Republican Scott Walker by a 60% to 37% margin. Both candidates were locked in a neck-and-neck race late into the evening.

In the much-watched gubernatorial race in Florida, under-30 voters supported Democratic candidate Andrew Gillum by a 62% to 36% margin over Republican candidate Ron DeSantis. Just one percentage point separates both gubernatorial aspirants with 99% of precincts reporting.

In a close Georgia gubernatorial race, young voters preferred Stacey Abrams by a 63% to 36% margin over Republican Brian Kemp. The race was called for Kemp with him ahead by about two percentage points, but Abrams has not conceded.

And in perhaps the most high-profile Senate race in the country, 71% of Texas youth voted for Beto O’Rourke, compared to just 29% for Republican Senator Ted Cruz. That race was called for Cruz late last night, but his margin of victory seems likely to be 3 percentage points or less. The level of youth support for O’Rourke is remarkable in a state where young people supported Hillary Clinton with 55% of their vote just two years ago, and in 2014 Texas youth were evenly divided (49%-49%) between the gubernatorial candidates of both parties.

As with youth share and other data based on exit polling, these numbers are subject to adjustment in the following days. We will also have more analysis in the days to come of how young people’s vote choice combined with their voter turnout—which we will release exclusively tomorrow—swayed races around the country and the midterm elections as a whole.

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