Democrats appeared to have staved off a Republican “red wave” as the dust settled from Tuesday’s US midterm elections—and numbers show that younger voters are to thank for this. Exit polls from the National Election Pool (NEP) found that younger voters aged 18-29 were the only voter group by age to overwhelmingly support Democrats in the elections. According to the poll, 60 per cent of voters in that age group voted for Democratic House candidates, while 35 per cent voted for Republicans.
“The role of young people in this election cannot be understated. Turnout delivered on many of these races,” Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning after the impact of the youth vote became more clear. “By 2024, millennials & gen Z voters will outnumber voters who are baby boomers and older, 45/25. We are beginning to see the political impacts of that generational shift,” she continued.
President Joe Biden also recognised said “generational shift” during a White House event held on Wednesday where he hailed better-than-expected results. According to the President, the support shown by lower millennials and gen Zers can be attributed to a desire to see urgent action taken on climate change and in support of a livable future.
“I especially want to thank the young people of this nation, who I’m told—I haven’t seen the number—voted in historic numbers again. And just as they did two years ago, they voted to continue addressing the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms, and [for] student debt relief,” said President Biden.
“It was a good day, I think, for democracy,” he concluded. Republican strategists had been hopeful of sweeping victories, given that inflation is at a 40-year-high and Biden’s approval ratings are relatively low. But recent numbers suggest that voters—more specifically, younger voters—may have punished the Republicans for their efforts to restrict access to abortion.
44 per cent of young voters listed abortion as their top issue in the campaign, according to exit polls. And in races where the issue was on the ballot directly or candidates made it a main talking point, voters swept Democrats to victories. This was the case in Pennsylvania, with the victory of John Fetterman, in New Hampshire, with the victory of Maggie Hassan, and in Michigan with Gretchen Whitmer.
“We saw that abortion certainly was a top issue,” Jack Lobel, a spokesperson for gen Z-led group Voters of Tomorrow, told NPR. “I think young voters recognised that, when Roe fell, it may have been the first of many rights to fall.”
Lobel also went on to suggest that the country’s economic issues—such as the costs of healthcare, education and housing—influenced the younger generations’ votes. “We want to build a better future for ourselves. We want to build a better future for our families as much as anyone,” he added.
Up until now, it was a well-known fact that younger voters have some of the worst turnout rates of any demographic, and technically, this year was no exception. According to The Independent, voters aged 18-29 made up about 12 per cent of the electorate, a historically common share.
But age was not the only factor that played a part in saving the Democrats’ asses—racial and gender divides were also important to their success. Exit polls indicate that the party won with women, black voters, Hispanic voters and Asian-Americans (though the latter two categories were demographics that broke for Democrats by much lower margins than they have in previous years, The Independent noted).
Last but not least, one of the biggest victories of the night was won by 25-year-old Maxwell Frost, who is set to take Madison Cawthorn’s spot as the youngest member of the US House of Representatives and now holds the title of the first member of his generation elected to Congress.
“Half of gen Z isn’t even old enough to vote yet. Over the coming years, we’ll see the youth vote become even more of a force to be reckoned with. What we want is bold transformational change,” he tweeted following his victory.