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"I voted" stickers are displayed at a voting station. Photo by Tommy Martino/Reuters

Young people feel anxious about election, poll finds

WASHINGTON — Engaged? Check. Anxious? Check.

With weeks to go until the November midterm elections, more young Americans are interested but, according to a new poll, they’re also feeling more anxious about the results.

A poll released Wednesday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV found that more young people now say they are feeling anxious about the midterms, compared to July. Nearly half of young Americans ages 15 to 34 now say that they are anxious about the midterms, up from 36 percent in the earlier poll.

The increase is most pronounced among young Democrats: 61 percent expressed anxiety compared with 39 percent in July.

Young voters could play a critical role in the elections, which will determine whether Republicans will maintain their full grip on Congress. But the big question is whether they will show up to the polls. Young voters rarely turn out in numbers that match their share of the population, especially in years when a presidential candidate isn’t on the ballot.

That’s leaving some voters nervous about what to expect. Tia Green, a 33-year-old from Lexington Park, Maryland, said she was worried that the election could inflame an already divided political culture. It’s an issue she’s especially sensitive to after recently seeing posts from a friend on social media that offended her.

“In the end, I ended up de-friending her without any confrontation or anything. But I was kind of saddened by it,” said Green, who described herself as a moderate Democrat. “Her views in general were completely disappointing, upsetting and it is hard to deal.”

Anxiety about November’s elections also grew among independents: 43 percent now describe themselves as anxious, compared with 31 percent in July. Among Republicans, about one-third say they are anxious about the midterms, roughly the same share that said so this summer.

John Laubacker, 32, of Rockport, New York, said he was “appalled” by the state of politics heading into the midterm elections.

“Political polarization is at an all-time high. Nobody wants to be civil with anybody,” he said. “Until they figure out that you have to work together whether you like them or not, they’re not going to get anything done.”

Laubacker, who identified as a moderate Republican, said he was frustrated by mudslinging by both parties.

“You keep hearing, ‘If the Republicans win, the country’s doomed. If the Democrats get enough people in, they’re going to impeach the president,'” he said. “They’re all worried about their own agendas and the agendas of their big-moneyed contributors. Nobody gives a crap about small people anymore.”

Though young voters participate in elections at low rates, the poll suggests they are now paying closer attention than they were several months ago.

Roughly two-thirds of those ages 15 to 34 now say they are interested in the elections, compared with about 4 in 10 in July. Interest is highest among young Democrats. Seventy-three percent of young Democrats say they are interested in the elections, up from 50 percent in July. A smaller majority of Republicans — 62 percent — say they are interested today, but that’s still up dramatically from 31 percent who said so in July.

Young Democrats and Republicans alike say they are more hopeful than they were earlier this year. Over the summer, roughly 4 in 10 in each group said they felt hopeful about the midterms. Now, 58 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans say they feel that way.

Fewer young Americans overall said that they were feeling overwhelmed ahead of November’s elections. Thirty-four percent of those 15 to 34 said they were feeling overwhelmed now, compared with 43 percent earlier this summer.

“I’m feeling a little nervous, but cautiously optimistic that things are going to swing in a positive way,” said 31-year-old Ashley Oliver of Kensington, Maryland, who described the political atmosphere as “chaotic”

“I’m hoping more Democratic candidates end up in so that we can bring back a little bit of control as to what’s going on,” she said. “Right now, I feel like it’s very chaotic, so I’m hoping that instead of being one-sided, it will be a little more even.”

The AP-NORC and MTV poll of 1,012 young Americans age 15-34 was conducted Aug. 8 to Sept. 10, 2018. The poll was conducted using NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

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