The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Younger voters don’t vote as much — but 18-year olds are an exception

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On Wednesday, we looked at the limited role #Millennials* play in politics, which is a function of two things. First, younger voters don't vote as much, meaning that the effect they have on elections is reduced. And, second, one reason that #Millennials don't vote as much is simply that many of them are too young to do so.

Data provided to the Post by California firm Political Data, though, offers a caveat to the "young voters don't vote as much" truism: 18 year-olds do. At the very least, they out-perform voters aged 20-25.

If you look at each federal election that California has held since 2008, 18-year olds consistently vote more than their slightly older peers -- even matching the overall voter turnout of the whole population in 2008.

Now, perhaps you are thinking, 'Well, yeah, they voted in 2008 for Obama and now vote more heavily.' But bear in mind that 2008's 18-year old is 2010's 20-year old. Those same 18-year olds that turned out so heavily for the 2008 presidential election were 24-year olds who barely voted at all in last year's primaries. 2014's 18-year olds, however, voted much more frequently.

There doesn't appear to be any effect that's derived from party or race. Here's how the population of 18-year olds in each party group has performed versus all members of that party in each of those elections.

Republican 18 year-olds turned out much less heavily than all Republicans in 2010 -- because 2010 was a key wave election for older voters.

So what's the cause? Hard to say. We pointed out last year that newly registered voters actually vote in California. And voters who just became eligible to vote are the focus of a lot of attention to encourage them to register. There's a rite of passage that year that may be an influence. This data only pertains to California, as well; maybe there's something in the water (or sunshine) that inspires people to vote.

The moral: Kamala Harris would be advised to start wooing people who turn 17 this year -- and then to ignore them for a while.


* Why do we hashtag "millennials"? Because we** think it is funny.
** Or, at least: I do.

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