Where Young Voters Could Decide Elections in 2022

CIRCLE researchers rank the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and gubernatorial races where the youth vote could swing the midterm results

Voting by young people has the potential to decide dozens of key 2022 midterm races across the country.

That’s according to new research by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life.

CIRCLE’s Youth Electoral Significance Index uses multiple indicators to rank U.S. Senate, U.S. House of Representatives, and gubernatorial races where young people have the highest likelihood to influence the result.

CIRCLE’s 2022 Youth Electoral Significance Index top rankings are:

table of top states where youth votes will have an impact in 2022 elections

Courtesy of CICLE

“Young people have solidified their status as a formidable voting group, not just in a few key battlegrounds, but in states and districts all across the country,” said Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, the Newhouse Director of Tisch College’s CIRCLE.

“We hope our data will encourage all stakeholders, from campaigns and large national organizations to small grassroots groups and local nonprofits, to reach out to young people to invest in expanded youth outreach,” she said. “These insights can inform their efforts to engage diverse communities of youth and continue building a more equitable multiracial democracy.”

Some major takeaways from the rankings:

Four key states top the rankings. Pennsylvania tops both the Senate and gubernatorial race rankings—and has three districts in the top 25 House races that could be impacted by young voters. Three other states—Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin—are in the top 5 of both lists. That means young people can potentially have a profound impact on both federal and statewide politics.

A wide range of states and districts will be impacted. Youth are poised to shape elections in every part of the country, such as urban districts in southern California, key battlegrounds in the Midwest, and rural communities in Maine.

Youth of color could have a big impact. In states like North Carolina, Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and Florida, and in districts like the California 25th and the Virginia 2nd, young people of color—whose voting proved decisive at the national level in 2020—could play a leading role in the 2022 midterm results.

The potential impact has a wide reach. The top 25 House races in the ranking include multiple districts in California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Virginia. It also includes races in states as varied as North Carolina, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Nevada.

The Youth Electoral Significance Index rankings incorporate data about the demographic makeup of communities and their recent history of voter participation, and about existing resources and assets like electoral policies and the presence of local community organizations that may help engage youth—or present challenges to overcome. More information about why each race ranks highly is available here.

“Growing and engaging young voters requires different approaches in different states, districts, and communities,” says Abby Kiesa, deputy director of CIRCLE. “You need to work differently in the rural Maine 2nd district than you do in the California 45th, where there’s a big college campus, or in a state with automatic registration and mail-in voting compared to a state with fewer facilitative election policies. This attention to context is how we will expand the electorate and include more young people of all parties and ideologies.”

States that have not finalized their 2022 congressional maps were not included in the analysis.

Alberto Medina, senior communications specialist at Tisch College, can be reached at alberto.medina@tufts.edu.

Back to Top