Youth vote gains momentum

Takeaways

  • Millennials are likely to soon become the largest voting bloc in the U.S.
  • There is increasing political interest among younger voters. John Savercool, head of the UBS U.S. Office of Public Policy, believes that the current level of activism will carry through to November.
  • The UBS Office of Public Policy’s expectations for the U.S. midterm elections at the moment are for the Republicans to keep the majority in the Senate and for the Democrats to take control of the House.

The youth vote could play a bigger part than ever before in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections, with the potential to transform the political landscape going forward, according to John Savercool, head of the UBS U.S. Office of Public Policy.

In terms of population, the Millennial generation is on the cusp of surpassing the Baby Boomer generation, according to Pew Research Center.1 As older voters pass away, and immigration increases the ranks of Millennials, that generation is likely to soon become the largest voting bloc in the U.S., possibly as early as 2019.

“But while the electoral clout of Millennial voters is potentially strong, the key is if this group will feel motivated to go to the polls,” according to Savercool. “Historically, there has been lower voter turnout among younger voters.”

For example, the turnout among Americans age 18 - 29 was 43% in the 2016 presidential election, compared with a 60% voter turnout rate for the entire electorate. The numbers are especially low for midterm elections. In the 2014 midterm elections, only 16% of Americans age 18 - 29 voted, compared to 55% for those age 60 or older, according to The New York Times.2

However, this year’s midterms could be a different story. Savercool sees increasing political interest among younger voters and believes that the current high level of activism will carry through to November. “Looking at what has been happening recently, there are a lot of reasons to believe that younger voters are very motivated. I expect to see a much more energized youth voting bloc in this year’s midterms,” said Savercool.

Teens, many of whom are already eligible to vote or about to reach that age, have been at the forefront of gun-control efforts after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Students across the country are staging protests and marches to advocate for tighter gun control. Other issues that Millennial voters tend to be passionate about include climate change and immigration. “There is less interest among young voters in foreign policy,” pointed out Savercool.

Millennial voters tend to be more liberal in their political views than voters of other generations, according to Savercool. But this doesn’t necessarily mean they are Democrats. Voters below age 30 were nearly three times as likely as voters over 30 to vote for a third-party candidate in the last presidential election.2 About one in 10 voted for Jill Stein of the Green Party or Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, or another candidate or write-in option, according to The New York Times.2

However, Savercool believes that ”without a truly viable Independent candidate, younger voters will likely gather under the Democratic Party umbrella.” Meanwhile, the Pew Research Center found that 23%3 of young Americans who identified as Republican or independent-leaning-Republican switched to identifying as Democrat or independent-leaning-Democrat from 2015 to 2017.

The UBS U.S. Office of Public Policy’s expectations for the midterms at the moment are for the Republicans to keep the majority in the Senate and for the Democrats to take control of the House, though Savercool stresses that it is still early.

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Disclosures