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Poll: Majority of Younger Voters Not Planning to Turn Up for Midterms

Candidates running for office in this year’s midterm elections should expect little help from younger voters, most of whom, according to a poll released Tuesday, are unlikely to go to the polls in November.  

The Harvard Institute of Politics poll of millenials found that just 23 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds say they will definitely vote in November. That number has fallen 11 percent just since last November, when 34 percent said they planned to vote in the 2014 midterms.  

In February of 2010, before the last midterm election, 31 percent said they would definitely be voting.  

Pollster John Della Volpe attributed the disinterest to a “decrease in trust” in government institutions and an “increase in cynicism.” Younger voters, he said, “need to feel like they’re making a difference,” a feeling that voting in elections does not necessarily provide. He noted as well that voting is often logistically difficult on college campuses. Della Volpe also said both political parties have made less of an effort “to inspire and engage people like they have in the past.”  

Harvard IOP Director Trey Grayson noted that the politicking that ramps up in an election year “turns off this generation,” and could have contributed to the 11 percent decrease since last November in people who say they definitely plan to vote.  

Those younger voters who definitely plan to vote are likely to help buoy Republicans in their quest to take control of the Senate. Forty-four percent of young voters who supported Republican nominee Mitt Romney in 2012’s presidential contest said they definitely plan to vote in November, while just 35 percent of those who supported President Barack Obama in that election said they plan to vote.  

Demographics that tend to break more for Republicans also expressed more enthusiasm for voting in November. Thirty-two percent of young people who identified as conservatives said they definitely would vote, while just 22 percent of liberals said so. More young white voters said they were likely to go to the polls than young black voters and Latino voters, 28 percent to 19 percent each, and men said they were more likely to vote than women, 28 percent to 19 percent.  

“I think if you look you would have to say this is a good time for Republican chances” to take control of the Senate, said Grayson.  

The KnowledgePanel poll results are based on interviews with 3,058 U.S. citizens age 18 through 29. The interviews were conducted from March 22 through April 4 by GfK on behalf of the Harvard IOP. There is a plus or minus 1.8 percentage point margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

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