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America's Young Adults: Special Issue, 2014

Voting

Voting rates measure the extent to which young people ages 18–24 participate in the democratic system. Voting behavior shows engagement in civic society and can indicate barriers to certain groups for full inclusion in the democratic system. Young adults historically have voted at much lower rates than the general population, particularly in years that do not include a presidential election.

Indicator Beh1.A: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 voting in presidential election years, 1972–2012
Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 voting in presidential election years, 1972–2012

Indicator Beh1.B: Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 voting in congressional election years, 1974–2010
Percentage of young adults ages 18–24 voting in congressional election years, 1974–2010

NOTE: For data before 2003, the 1977 Office of Management and Budget (OMB) standards for data on race and ethnicity were used to classify persons into racial groups. The revised 1997 OMB standards were used for data from 2003 and later years. Data from 2003 onward are not directly comparable with data from earlier years. Data on race and Hispanic origin are collected separately. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.

SOURCE: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Voting and Registration Supplement.

  • Like the rest of the population, young adults are less likely to vote in congressional election years than presidential ones. In 2012, a presidential election year, 38 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds voted, compared with 20 percent in 2010, the most recent congressional election year.
  • In recent presidential election years, turnout among young Black voters and young Hispanic voters has varied. The voting rate for young Black voters was 44 percent in 2004, 52 percent in 2008, and 46 percent in 2012. The voting rate for young Hispanic voters, meanwhile, was 20 percent in 2004, and 27 percent in 2008 and in 2012.
  • Attending and graduating from college are associated with increased voting among young adults. In 2012, 18 percent of high school dropouts reported voting, compared with 62 percent of college graduates. The voting rate for young adults enrolled in college in 2012 was 53 percent, compared with 34 percent for those who were not enrolled in school.
  • From 1996 to 2012, the top reason given for not voting among registered young adults has always been "too busy, conflicting schedule" (6 percent in 2012), but "out of town or away from home" and "not interested" (about 4 percent each in 2012) were also frequent reasons given for not voting.

table icon YABEH1A HTML Table, table icon YABEH1B HTML Table, table icon YABEH1C HTML Table,
table icon YABEH1D HTML Table