Youth vote again pivotal in presidential race

With votes still being counted in key battlegrounds, young people could make the difference, especially youth of color and young women
A map showing the youth vote for president by state in 2020
Credit: CIRCLE, Tisch College, Tufts University
November 4, 2020

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Jen McAndrew

MEDFORD/SOMERVILLE, Mass. (Nov. 4, 2020)—Although votes continue to be counted, the youth vote has the potential to shape the outcome of the 2020 election and to decide the presidency of the United States, according to analysis out today from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), the preeminent, non-partisan research center on youth engagement at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. Today’s findings are based on CIRCLE’s analysis of CIRCLE analyses of Census population data, the 2020 AP VoteCast by the Associated Press, and the National Election Pool exit poll.

Here’s where the youth vote stands in key states as of noon today:

  • Pennsylvania: Youth made up 14% of the vote and supported Biden by +23
  • Michigan: Youth made up 15% of the vote and supported Biden by +29
  • North Carolina: Youth made up 16% of the vote and supported Biden by +16
  • Georgia: Youth made up 21% of the vote and supported Biden by +15
  • Arizona: Youth made up 17% of the vote and supported Biden by +28

Go to bit.ly/2020YouthVote for the latest data.

Highlights of today’s analysis include:

  • An early estimate of aggregate youth voter turnout in 11 crucial battleground states (AZ, GA, IA, NC, FL, OH, MT, CO, WI, TX, SC) suggests that 47%-49% of all eligible young people cast ballots. This estimate is based on an initial analysis of 2020 National Election Pool exit poll and Census population data. If votes continue coming in at the same rate in each state, youth voter turnout across these states could rise to 51%-53%. For comparison, using the same sources and methodology, we estimate that youth turnout nationally was 42-44% in 2016 at this same moment.
  • Young voters preferred former Vice President Joe Biden to President Donald Trump in 32 of the 39 states for which data has been reported so far, in most cases by strong, double-digit margins.
  • Nationally, based on CIRCLE analysis of AP VoteCast data from the Associated Press, 62% of youth (ages 18-29) voted for Biden, and 33% voted for Trump. While not exactly comparable, because of separate sources and methodology in each year, this is higher than the level of youth support Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton received in 2016, and higher than the level of youth support President Barack Obama received in 2012.
  • Young people chose differently than older voters, and there were also major differences by race/ethnicity. Young white voters preferred Biden by 6 points (51% vs. 45%). Young Black, Asian, and Latino voters, respectively, supported Biden by overwhelming margins of 77, 72, and 49 points.
  • Within those differences by race/ethnicity, there are differences by gender. For example, young white men preferred President Trump by 6 points (51% vs 45%), while young white women supported Biden over Trump by 13 points: 55% to 42%.
  • States tracking a high youth share of the vote include Georgia (highest at 21% youth share of the overall vote), Arizona, New Hampshire, Maine, Virginia, Nevada and states in the upper Northwest.
  • The youth vote in Georgia is a big and developing story. In Georgia, Trump currently leads the tallies by a little over 88,000 votes; however, if the youth vote were taken out of the equation, his lead would expand to over 228,000 votes. Young voters under 30 have so far given Biden a net of 140,000 votes. This means that, by favoring Biden 55% versus 41%, young voters are likely keeping the Georgia race from being called in Trump’s favor. 
  • In Arizona, which has been called for Biden, it’s clear his victory was powered by youth. Youth made up 17% of the vote and supported Biden by a 28-point margin.
  • In Wisconsin, the two presidential candidates are in a neck-and-neck race. As of noon today, CIRCLE estimates that young voters have already given Biden a total of about 281,000 votes, compared to about 157,000 votes to Trump, because of their sharp preference toward Biden (58% vs. 39%). Without young voters, Trump would have a substantial and possibly insurmountable lead.

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CIRCLE (circle.tufts.edu) is a nonpartisan, independent, academic research center that studies young people in politics and presents detailed data on young voters in all 50 states. CIRCLE is part of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. The only university-wide college of its kind, the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life (http://tischcollege.tufts.edu/) offers transformational student learning and service opportunities, conducts groundbreaking research on young people’s civic and political participation, and forges innovative community partnerships. Its work is guided by two core beliefs: that communities, nations and the world are stronger, more prosperous, and more just when citizens actively participate in civic and democratic life; and that higher education has a responsibility to develop the next generation of active citizens.