Just waiting for the young people to show up.

Photographer: Steve Pope/Getty Images

How the Youth Vote Failed Democrats

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Democrats needed a big turnout from 18- to 29-year-olds in this month's midterm elections. Spoiler alert: It didn't happen. But there were some interesting elements to the failure. So before we move on to 2016, here is a quick survey of 18- to 29-year-old voters in 2014. These tidbits rely on -- notably fallible -- exit polling, so be wary of drawing grand millennial conclusions (not that anyone ever does that).

  • Youth Share of the Electorate: The estimated youth share of the electorate was 13 percent, similarly in line with midterms dating back to 1994. According to Circle, young people 18 to 29 comprise 21.2 percent of U.S. citizens.
  • Party Identification: Youth still seem to skew largely Democratic, favoring Democrats in the House 54 percent to 43 percent, according to CNN exit poll data. That's a smaller margin than in 2010, but sizable nonetheless. In 1998, the overall youth vote for the House was evenly split between parties.

    Circle notes that as in 2010, young Hispanics and blacks were far more likely to vote for Democratic House candidates. About 43 percent of whites 18-29 voted Democratic compared with 68 percent of Hispanics and 88 percent of blacks.
  • Maine: In Maine, 18- to 29-year-olds voted for (moderate, female) Republican Senator Susan Collins by a large margin. Collins won 66 percent of the youth vote, which tracked the overall Maine electorate -- she won 68 percent -- closely.

    By contrast, in Maine's governor's race, the youth vote was pretty evenly split, with 46 percent favoring the Democrat and 45 percent favoring the Republican. Those 65 and older also split their votes in the gubernatorial race, with the Democrat and Republican each receiving 47 percent of the vote.
  • Alaska, Arkansas, Texas and West Virginia: The youth vote went Republican in these Senate races. The Republican candidate won 48 to 44 among those under 30 in Alaska, 50 to 46 in Arkansas, 48 to 42 in Texas and 60 to 35 in West Virginia
  • Ohio: For 2016 prognosticators sizing up Republican Governor John Kasich, he won the Ohio youth vote by 56 percent to 41 percent. 
  • Tossup Seats: Republicans lost the youth vote in at least five of seven "tossup" Senate seats. Young people voted for the Democrat by 53-39 in North Carolina, 58-40 in Georgia and 51-45 in Iowa; the Republican won the seat in each race. In Kansas, young people voted for Independent Greg Orman over Republican Pat Roberts, 57 percent to 39 percent. Democrat Jeanne Shaheen won reelection to the Senate in New Hampshire, where she won the under 30 vote by a margin of 58 to 42. In Alaska, Republican Dan Sullivan won the 18-29 vote. (I wasn't able to obtain data for the youth vote by party in Colorado's Senate race.)
  • Iowa, Kentucky, Wisconsin and South Carolina: In these states, voters 18-29 were the only age cohort won by Democrats. Iowa Democrat Bruce Braley won the 18-29 vote over Republican Joni Ernst 51-45 percent. (In the governor's race, young people voted for popular Republican incumbent Terry Branstad 54-41.) In the Kentucky Senate race, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes split the youth vote with Republican Senator Mitch McConnell 48 percent to 47 percent. In the Wisconsin governor's race, Democrat Mary Burke won the 18- to-29 vote over Republican Governor Scott Walker 51-47. And in the Senate special election in South Carolina, Democrat Joyce Dickerson outpolled Senator Tim Scott among those under 30 by 55-44.
  • California: Young people liked the geezerCalifornia's 76-year-old Governor Jerry Brown won 18- to 29-year-olds over 41-year-old Republican Neel Kashkari by a whopping 71 percent to 29 percent.
  • Marijuana: Surprise! The kids seem to be for it. In Florida, young people favored a failed ballot measure to make medical marijuana legal by a margin of 79-21. In Alaska, 18- to 29-year-olds favored legalizing marijuana 59 to 41; the measure passed with 52 percent of the vote. (I couldn't obtain data on how youth voted on a marijuana ballot measure in Oregon, where legalization passed with 56 percent of the vote.)  

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Zara Kessler at zkessler@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Francis Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net