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

Youth Turnout High in West Virginia; Young Republican Primary Voters Seem to Turn to Trump

May 11th, 2016
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Although the two major party nominees for president are all but confirmed, young people still want a voice in the matter. In yesterday’s West Virginia primaries, an estimated 25% of the state’s young people cast ballots, many for Senator Bernie Sanders, who won the state but still trails Secretary Hillary Clinton by a substantial margin in the delegate count. In the Nebraska Republican Primary, the estimated number of youth who cast ballots far exceeded 2008, but represented a sliver of the youth population there.

Comparable youth participation data for both parties combined from previous presidential election cycles is not available. However, the estimated West Virginia youth turnout is on the higher end so far this year, surpassing states like Iowa (11%), Florida (17%), and Virginia (18%), while trailing New Hampshire (43%) and Wisconsin (33%).



Young Democratic Primary Voters Still Pushing Back on Presumed Democratic Nominee

Like the majority of youth throughout the primaries, young people who cast ballots in the West Virginia Democratic primary continued to support Senator Sanders far more than the now presumptive Democratic nominee, Secretary Clinton.[1] Young voters, ages 17-29, favored Senator Sanders 70% to 25%, far exceeding his overall margin of victory of 51% to 36%. While we estimate that fewer young people participated in the Democratic primary than in 2008 (35,000 vs. 46,000), youth were a slightly larger share of voters this year (15% vs 14%).





Young Republican Primary Voters Seem to Turn to Trump

Through early April, Donald J. Trump had received an estimated 40% of youth support or more in only one of the states that had voted: Mississippi. However, young people in more recent Republican primaries had been supporting Donald J. Trump in larger numbers, for example in Pennsylvania (52%) and Indiana (47%), and that was before all other Republican candidates dropped out. Now that Trump is the only candidate in the Republican Presidential nominating contest, 63% of youth who participated in yesterday’s West Virginia Republican primary, voted for Trump. It is worth noting that Trump’s youth support, though significant, still trailed behind his overall level of support in a state he won with 77% of the vote. Some youth cast ballots for candidates who have dropped out of the race (12% for Cruz, 6% for Kasich), and almost one-fifth (19%) reported they voted for someone else or had no answer. Young people were, by far, the largest age group to provide this response.


The Nebraska exit poll did not have a large enough youth sample to report out on how young people divided their support among the presidential candidates in the Republican primary.

Almost the same estimated number of youth cast ballots in the Democratic and Republican primaries in West Virginia (35,000 and 33,000, respectively). Young people made up 17% of all voters in the Republican primary, one of the highest youth shares in Republican primaries this cycle, and equivalent to the proportion of primary voters aged 65-and-over. Young people made up an estimated 8% of voters in the Nebraska Republican primary.

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[1] Data is not available to calculate estimates for the Nebraska Democratic contest.



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