By: August Barham
During the 2018 midterm elections two voting demographics stood under the spotlight, women and young voters; I identify with both groups. Despite speculation on if these demographics would show in as strong numbers as anticipated, we did not disappoint.
The election brought the public's attention to young female voters, and proved that this demographic is showing up more than ever and has the power to influence the polls in a big way.
This election, I believe, was no fluke but rather represents a new and ongoing trend in voting. Here is why the United States should continue to pay attention to young female voters.
As shown in the 2018 midterm elections, young and female voters are showing up to the polls at increasing rates. In 2012 young voters were thought to have been a major factor in President Obama’s reelection. According to NPR, “Obama easily won the youth vote nationally, 67 percent to 30 percent, with young voters proving the decisive difference in Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.” Women, too, played a key role in Obama’s reelection. According to a 2012 Gallup poll, “President Barack Obama won the two-party vote among female voters in the 2012 election by 12 points.”
Although the youth vote tended to show in presidential elections but remained relatively uninvolved in Congressional elections, the 2018 midterms demonstrated a shift in that statistic. While not all the numbers are in, predictions from early voting identify high youth and female turnout, “Young voters appear to have taken advantage of early voting in outsize numbers this year, as did women,” according to the Vox article, “Early Numbers Suggest Voter Turnout Soared In The 2018 Midterms.” Speaking to the trend, my friends and classmates, who are largely women around 18 years old, almost all voted and most did so early and through absentee ballots. My group chats, social media, and classes buzzed with talk of the election.
Also, young and female voters vote overwhelming Democratic, so determining their voting patterns could determine the fate of the Democratic party in elections. According to a report by The Washington Post, young voters shifted to voting strictly Democratic more so than other groups, “In particular, 18- to 29-year-old voters chose Democratic candidates over Republican candidates by a 2-to-1 margin in 2018.” Female voters saw a similar trend, the articles cites, “Nearly 60 percent of women who voted for one of the two major parties voted for Democratic candidates.” Speaking to my own experiences, the majority of my peers identify as Democratic and those whom identify Republican are becoming sparse.
Besides voter turnout, the general demographic of the electorate is shifting sharply to the younger generation. The Pew Research Center explains, “As of November 2016, an estimated 62 million Millennials (adults ages 20 to 35 in 2016) were voting-age U.S. citizens, surpassing the 57 million Generation X members (ages 36 to 51) in the nation’s electorate and moving closer in number to the 70 million Baby Boomers (ages 52 to 70), according to a new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Millennials comprised 27% of the voting.”
While millennials are all of voting age, the following generation shows similar trends towards high voter participation and Democratic affiliation, but is even larger. Gen Z, who have recently began joining the electorate, is the largest rising generations. In fact, in, “Gen Z Is Set to Outnumber Millennials Within a Year,” from Bloomberg, the authors show that, “Gen Z will comprise 32 percent of the global population of 7.7 billion in 2019, nudging ahead of millennials, who will account for a 31.5 percent share, based on Bloomberg analysis of United Nations data, and using 2000/2001 as the generational split.” As one of the largest generations, younger voters are growing every year and could soon become the largest part of the electorate and therefore the largest determinant in elections.
Finally, young female voters are politically engaged and able to organize. Millenials and Gen Z are more aware of political events and more likely to participate in protests than their parents were. Vice Impact explains that, “In our research, 3,000 millennial study participants shared their political and cause-related perceptions and behaviors last year and since the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In an impressive statistic, those 3,000 millennials reported performing 13,000 actions related to causes and social issues they cared about from roughly July 2016 to July 2017. That's an average of over a thousand actions a month. Moreover, our study showed that a larger percentage of millennials (65 percent) voted in the presidential election than the percentage of the American public (55 percent) did.”
From personal experience, my peers are far from apathetic in concern to politics. At my old high school, a political action club was started by a group of female students last year. The same year, a group of six students, comprised almost entirely of women, organized a school walk-out that gained high participation. On social media, I view post after post by my peers of photos from protests or calls to action.
Speaking of social media, the younger generation’s technological savvy allows us to spread information and organize on a large scale, quickly. This may be seen from the numerous large political movements that have started online such as the Women's March, #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, #cancelkavanaugh, and numerous others.
Young female voters have been watching and holding onto our vote. Now that we are rising into the electorate, don't count us out of the equation because it looks like we might just live up to the promise our parents once told us, “you can change the world.”