Even though millennials—people born between 1982 and 2000, according to the U.S. census definition—are the largest age group in the country at 83.1 million people, they have the lowest voter turnout of any group.
For one thing, political powerhouses don’t generally cater to young people. Most politicians are only interested in money, I think it’s fair to say. And what don’t young people have? Money! Additionally, politicians historically have not been targeting young people in their ads and campaigns, so young people pay less attention. But Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, believes that young people do have a tremendous impact on elections when they do vote in them.
Research done by political scientists John Hohlbein and Sunshine Hillygus indicates that one way to get young people voting is to lower the voting age. They compared the trends in turnout between 18-22-year-olds with the Current Population Survey and found that people who pre-registered to vote before they turn 18 were more likely to vote at age 18. Hohlbein and Hillygus reported an increase in vote range of 2-13 points.
But it isn’t necessarily just young people who don’t vote. Research indicates that “fair” turnout isn’t reached until 40 years of age. Beyond that, every other age group is over-represented in the elective body. Of course, going out for the youth vote can be tricky, as older voters are often more likely to be better-informed with an established voting history.
Still, there is a lot to be said for getting young voters pre-registered. Getting young people excited about voting earlier and teaching them about its process, outcomes, and their part in elections is a smart way to ensure that people will actually vote by the time they turn 18. Though that isn’t necessarily true in all places, earlier outreach and education could go a long way towards scoring that youth vote.