Based On Registration, Young Pennsylvanians Seem Really Excited To Vote

May 28, 2018

Usually midterm elections see low voter participation. But 2018 might be a little different.

In the lead up to the primary, the state saw a significant spike in the number of young people, aged 17-24, registering to vote.

Of course, these numbers will still be lower than they are during presidential elections.

Mike McDonald is a political science professor at the University of Florida and runs the U.S. Elections Project and studies voting trends across the country. He said the traditional decline in participation in midterms is predominantly due to young voters, who are less likely to vote in midterms.

“In a midterm election compared to a presidential election, turnout rates decline for all age groups,” McDonald said. “That decline is largest for young people, their turnout rates might decline as much as 20 percentage points between the presidential election and the midterm election."

Older voters, he said, may have a decline in turnout rate by only 10 percent. In 2016, roughly 60 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, according to the U.S. Census.

But, McDonald said, good evidence for higher participation rates in midterms can be found in the high turnout for special elections throughout the U.S.

“That’s highly unusual,” he said. “And we’re seeing in polling a high level of interest in politics and in voting, which seems sensible given what we’re seeing in turnout rates with special elections. So, it all seems to fit together to say, ‘yes we’ll probably see higher turnout rate in the 2018 midterm elections.’”

Still, he said, an increase in voter turnout in midterms would be nothing to write home about. They’re still low numbers maybe reaching 40 percent of eligible voters.

“In the big scheme of things, I’d expect our participation to be much lower than what we might hope it would be for a vibrant democracy.”