Young voters are screaming, but their elders aren’t listening

The Nation called it. 

“Youth turnout will decide the fate of the midterm elections,” the magazine predicted a day before the Nov. 8 election. 

“Young voters hold enormous influence as a demographic,” The Nation reported, noting that a “high level of participation in the midterms this year could swing the results in the Democrats favor.”

And while the fate of the House and Senate is still up in the air as of this newspaper’s print deadline, it is glaringly obvious to anyone following national politics this week that young people — specifically voters age 18 to 29 who broke — prevented the “Red Wave” of Republican wins Trump and his chosen MAGA candidates — many of whom lost their elections this week — as well as many media outlets that should have known better, had been predicting in the run-up to the election.  

As the New York Times pointed out the day after the election — hopefully with a modicum of shame considering the Times pushed the “Red Wave” narrative pretty hard, seemingly relying on polling data that overlooked not just young voters but the impact the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion rights would have on generations of women who rather enjoy living in a country that doesn’t treat pregnant people like incubators instead of living, breathing humans capable of making their own healthcare decisions — “President Biden appeared to have the best midterms of any president in 20 years, avoiding the ‘shellacking’ his predecessors endured.” 

Young voters turned out for the midterm election. College students stood in long lines around the country for several hours, waiting to make their voices heard

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts (CIRCLE) estimates 27% of young voters age 18 to 29 cast a ballot in the 2022 midterm election, “making this the midterm election with the second-highest youth voter turnout in almost three decades,” with even higher numbers in some swing states, including Pennsylvania, considered critical “battleground states” in the fight for control of the House and Senate. 

These voters, who include the youngest Millennials and half of the up-and-coming Generation Z, preferred Democratic candidates by a 28-point margin, CIRCLE reported, voting for Democratic House candidates 63% of the time. 

Slightly older voters, ages 30 to 44, also favored Democratic candidates, but only by about 51% — while older voters (older, white voters, anyway) were far more likely to cast a ballot for the Republican candidates. Voters older than 65 favored Republicans by a margin of 55%, according to CIRCLE’s analysis of the 2022 Edison national exit poll data

According to the Census Bureau, there are about 68 million members of the generation known as Generation Z, who are between the ages of 10 and 25 right now. These youth are our nation’s future. And it is foolish to ignore the message they sent this week: that we must move beyond the bullying, divisive, pro-gun, anti-union, anti-choice, anti-climate action, pro-billionaire, anti-LGBTQ, anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from today’s Republican Party. 

We must listen to what our younger generations screamed from the ballot boxes this week. Politics in this country is not a sport. It is not just a game of “our side versus their side.” The impacts of electing people who openly question our democracy and threaten our rule of law — who ignore climate change, file lawsuits to block much-needed student-loan forgiveness, endanger lives with their punishing abortion bans, treat immigrants and refugees with cruelty instead of compassion and make laws that harm our LGBTQ youth — have real and often devastating impacts on our youth. 

They know it. That’s why they voted the way they did this week. Now it’s time for their elders to listen and to ask, “What can we do better?”