Indicator: Young adult share of voters compared to their share of the overall population

Progress: Youth between 18 and 24 made up 12% of the population, and made up 13% of voters

Significance of Indicator: 

Voting demonstrates explicitly whether a young person has taken on the social responsibility of participating in our democratic and electoral process. All other measures ask individuals to self-report their personal or social responsibility (i.e. Students are asked on a survey, “Are you registered to vote?”). Voting is one of the only indicators to measure an action associated with engagement directly.

what the data tell us

Young adults have historically been less likely to vote than older age groups. In 2017, young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 made up 12% of Travis County’s 18 and over population, but represented 13% of voters in the November 2018 general election. In contrast, adults over 65+ made up 21% of voters, despite also comprising 12% of the population in 2017.

Definition: The percentage of registered and actual voters ages 18-24, in comparison to other age groups

Data Source: American Community Survey, 1-year Estimates and Opinion Analyst, Inc.

Data Considerations: This graph compares 2018 voter turnout data to 2017 population numbers, the most recent ACS population data available. The ACS estimates population data through relatively small sample sizes. Opinion Analysts uses the surnames of registered voters to determine race and ethnicity. Estimates of voter turnout by racial and ethnic group may not accurately reflect voter turnout trends for each racial and ethnic group.

The story behind the indicator

National Trends

Young adults are less likely than older adults to vote, a gap that has remained relatively constant over time. Based on data from the American Community Survey and Opinion Analyst, Inc., the Community Advancement Network estimates that about 49% of eligible 18 to 24 years olds in Travis County voted in the November election, compared to 73% of citizens over 65. Nationally, CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, estimated that 28% of youth between the ages of 18 and 29 voted in the 2018 election. According to the U.S. Elections Project, the 2014 election had the lowest voter turnout since 1942.

Nonprofit Vote outlines numerous benefits to voting, including a greater likelihood of engaging in other types of civic activity and stronger social connections which lead to a higher quality of life.

CIRCLE cites a number of factors that can increase voting among young adults: increased contact from organizations that encourage voting; increased registration, as well as state laws that make it easier to register and to vote; greater information on voting logistics– how, when, and where to vote; more civic education in school and greater voting and civic engagement among members of a young person’s household.

Local efforts to improve the indicator

  • The Travis County Election Division works to increase voter turnout by offering programs such as early voting which provides voters with flexibility in voting times and locations.
  • The East Austin Voter Mobilization Initiative works intensively to get out the vote in East Austin precincts with historically low voter turnout.
  • The Stand Up Chapters’ Youth Mobilizers with Austin Voices for Education and Youth get deputized by Austin Travis County Election Division each semester so that they can register their friends and peers to vote. 
  • Hook the Vote and UT Votes, initiatives of The University of Texas at Austin and the Annette Strauss Institute, respectively, register and educate undergraduates about elections and voting.

Registered Voter Turnout by Age

Definition: The percentage of registered and actual voters ages 18-24, in comparison to other age groups

Data Source: Opinion Analyst, Inc.

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Ready by 21 (RB21) and the RB21 logo are registered trademarks of the Forum for Youth Investment. The Central Texas RB21 Coalition is a member of the Forum’s RB21 Learning Network. The Central Texas RB21 online dashboard is currently sponsored by Workforce Solutions — Capital Area Workforce Board, the Community Advancement Network (CAN) and the City of Austin, with content and data contributions from over 20 local youth-serving coalitions.