Over the past few weeks, a lot has been written about the surge in the number of young people voting early in the 2020 election. There has been less written, however, about the role that young people’s changing voter preference will have on its outcome.
Hillary Clinton outperformed Donald Trump with young voters (18- to 29-years-old) by 19 points, according to national exit polls. Two years ago, young voters favored Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterm elections by an average of 35 points, and since the end of the Democratic primary, they have coalesced around Joe Biden’s candidacy for president, favoring him over Trump by 30 to 40 points according to most national polls.
To determine the potential impact of this voter shift on the election, Generation Progress analyzed young people’s voter preference in a number of key battleground states, using data sourced from the latest reputable polls, and compared those estimates to 2016 exit polls in those same states. For this analysis, we assumed a 10 percent overall increase in the electorate (a conservative estimate given the surge in the early vote total) and assumed that young voters maintained their 2016 share of their state’s electorate (again, a conservative estimate since young voters are already comprising a larger percentage of the electorate than in years past).
Finally, we juxtaposed the anticipated increase in 18- to 29-year-olds’ voter split between Biden and Trump with the voter split of that same age group between Clinton and Trump and compared it to the overall margin of victory in those states.
In several states, we found that the change in voter preference among 18- to 29-year-olds could comprise as much as 50 percent of the total margin of victory in those states. In other states, such as Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, we found that the shift in young voter preference would result in significantly more votes for Biden than the 2016 margin of victory in those states—meaning that young voters alone could determine which candidate receives the coveted electoral votes of these battleground states.
Thus, while significant focus has been dedicated—and rightly so—to surging youth voter turnout, not enough attention has been paid to the significance of young people coalescing around Joe Biden’s candidacy in every major poll.