American Youth Say They Will Show Up to Vote

A new survey finds 57% of young people are extremely likely to cast ballots in the 2024 election. Here are the places it may make all the difference 

Almost a year away from the 2024 presidential election, a majority of young people say they are extremely likely to vote. The issues youth care most about? The cost of living, jobs, gun violence, and climate change. 

That’s according to a recent Pre-2024 Election Youth Survey conducted by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts’ Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. 

“Young voters have been participating at historically high rates in recent elections, and their votes are consequential. Forty million Gen Z voters, who came of age already deeply engaged with politics, are eligible to cast a ballot in 2024, and together they have the potential to keep shaping our democracy,” says Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Newhouse Director of CIRCLE. “But continued high electoral engagement is not a given, and our survey reveals some of the troubling trends that could keep them away from the ballot as well as opportunities to motivate and mobilize them based on their needs and concerns.”

CIRCLE’s research on the youth vote is a key part of a broad portfolio that examines young people’s civic education and engagement.. 

Here are some takeaways from this nationally representative poll of young people, ages 18-34, that can inform organizations’ efforts to engage youth, expand the electorate, and strengthen democracy.

A majority of youth say they will vote in 2024, but some need more information and support.

About 57% of young people say they’re “extremely likely” to vote in 2024; another 15% say they’re “fairly likely.”

Some young people, notably Black youth (44%), nonwhite rural youth (48%), and youth without college experience (41%) are less likely to say they’ll vote in 2024. In some instances, these differences reflect deficiencies in information and support for electoral participation.

The likeliest voters show stronger support for the Democratic presidential candidate.

Among youth who are extremely likely to vote, 51% intend to support the Democratic candidate in 2024, 30% the Republican, and 16% are undecided. Among all youth in the survey (regardless of likelihood to vote), 37% support a Democrat, 25% a Republican, and 31% are undecided. The large number of undecided young voters indicates an opportunity to engage more youth over the next year, CIRCLE researchers say. 

The economy, guns, and climate are the key issues. 

By a wide margin, young people rated the cost of living/inflation as their main concern: 53% chose it as one of their top three issues, followed by jobs that pay a living wage (28%), addressing climate change (26%), gun violence prevention (26%), and expanding abortion access and reproductive healthcare (19%).

CIRCLE, which works to increase youth engagement in elections, emphasizes that the issues youth care about are heavily influenced by their identities and experiences. Black youth, for example, were more likely to prioritize gun violence prevention, fighting racism, and student loan debt. 

If candidates and their campaigns want to attract the youth vote, CIRCLE researchers say, they need to understand these differences.

A graph shows the issues that young voters care most about.

Young people who are concerned about climate are more likely to vote. 

Youth who chose addressing climate change as one of their top concerns were 20 points more likely than those who did not to say they’re extremely likely to vote in 2024, and more likely to engage in various forms of political action. Climate-focused youth are also exceedingly more likely to prefer a Democratic presidential candidate (65%) than a Republican (4%), whereas preferences are much closer for youth who prioritize the cost of living/inflation.

Candidates and campaigns aren’t reaching out to youth. 

Among youth extremely likely to vote, very few have seen information from candidates and campaigns. Only 19% of youth say they’ve heard about issues and politics in 2023 from a political party or campaign, and just 14% from a community organization or local group. Only about a third (35%) of youth say they have support in their communities to understand and act on information about politics—which CIRCLE says is worrying given concerns about misinformation in a complex media and social media landscape. 

“We’re heading into another hugely consequential national election, and young people are telling us that they want to see change, want to participate in decision-making about the future, and they care deeply about issues,” said Abby Kiesa, CIRCLE’s deputy director. “It’s up to all of us—youth groups, elected officials, schools, parents, nonprofits—to listen, to create supportive pathways for these newer eligible voters that reduce inequities and expand the youth electorate for a more representative democracy.”

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