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Power Up: Will there be a youth wave? Early voting points to yes

Student volunteers help out at a booth to encourage on campus voting for students during a Vote for Our Lives event at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Outside the Beltway

THE YOUTH WAVE?: Youth turnout rates in the midterm early vote are up by 125 percent compared to 2014, according to Catalist, a voter database servicing progressive organizations — an eye-popping and historically high figure, say strategists on both the left and the right.

Young Americans ages 18 to 29 who say they are definitely voting tilt leftward, according to polls. But the data also shows young Republicans are bubbling with enthusiasm headed into tomorrow.

Here are the Catalist numbers for early voting:

Ballots Cast National — All Ages National — Under 30
2014 19,052,732 1,027,499
2016 41,014,969 4,143,982
2018 29,227,381 2,314,126
An “attitudinal” shift: A recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll indicated the most dramatic shift in their polling history is young people’s attitudes about whether politics makes a tangible difference in their lives. John Della Volpe, IOP’s polling director, said pollsters saw a 15-point increase post-2016.
Per the poll: Forty percent of 18 to 29-year-olds reported they will “definitely vote” in the midterms (54 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Republicans and 24 percent of independents).
2020 implications: Among young people polled, 59 percent said they would “never” vote for President Trump vs. 11 percent who said they’d be “sure to” vote for him.
Narratives vs. numbers: “Almost all of the data I’ve seen from the last two Harvard polls indicate a significant increase in enthusiasm, interest and likelihood of voting for people under 30 — so the data has been consistent but the narrative inconsistent,” Della Volpe told us. “The high-water mark going back 32 years is only 21 percent of young people turning out and participating in a midterm election.”
‘A big boost’: “The media expectation before AVEV (Absentee Voting/Early Voting) started, based on survey responses about enthusiasm, was that young people would not be a factor again,” a Democratic strategist told Power Up. “Clearly, they’re going to be, especially if those voting are as Democratic as they survey. It’s a big boost for Democrats’ hopes.”
GOP pollster: Chris Wilson, the CEO of WPA Intelligence, told us he thought it was a “bit too much” to call the turnout “historic.” But he said the electorate is looking younger “than both the 2016 and 2014 general elections. “Voters under 25 are outpacing their vote share from both the 2016 and 2014 general. Proportionately it’s not enough to make a huge difference, but it’s more,” Wilson said.
The Issues: Nine months after 17 students were killed in a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Della Volpe’s firm, SocialSphere, found that school shootings are the most worrisome issue to young Americans.

Surge in activism = a surge in voting: Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist and head of the firm Targetsmart, told us that skeptics initially cast doubt on the firm’s findings that the “share of youth registrants nationwide increased by 2.16 percent” after the Parkland shooting in February. A September memo showed that turnout among young people increased by an average of 4 percent in the 2018 primaries vs. 2014 primaries — and doubled in some battleground states compared to 2014.
Pennsylvania: Per Bonier, “Pennsylvania . . . has seen youth voter registration surge by 10 points after [Parkland]. Youth voters make up nearly 60 percent of all new Pennsylvania registrants.”
The mass shooting generation is showing up: We spoke with Jackie Corin, co-founder of March for Our Lives, who voted for the first time last week. Corin, along with a handful of her peers, has been traveling the country, meeting with lawmakers and mass shooting survivors, speaking on college campuses and visiting communities to build what the group calls a “youth infrastructure” to carry over into 2020.

Get woke: Corin says she credits the big interest to issues young people care about “behind the names on the ballots . . . You’re not just voting for this candidate but for your brother who might go to a college next year in an open carry state.”
Civic engagement is cool: “Activism is becoming more of a normalized activity for teenagers — they are seeing their friends get involved with campaigns and issues and it’s spreading like wildfire,” Corin added.
Twitter working against Trump?: Corin also credited the spike in awareness and engagement to Trump’s Twitter habits. “The president uses Twitter as main source of communication and that’s something that young people see every single day — they’re always on Twitter and Instagram so they’re more engaged about what’s going on.”
Real progress: Since the Parkland shooting that killed 17, over 60 state laws have been passed tightening gun control. “The constant mass shootings are large motivators … it’s what has activated thousands and thousands of people across this country,” Corin said.
Final thoughts: There’s been a lot of talk about “waves” this election cycle — from an energized Trump resistance, to suburban women suddenly engaged against the president. We’ve spent less time focusing on the youth vote because it hasn’t historically turned out in off-year elections. We still don’t know if the shift pollsters are seeing in early voting will be reflected at the ballot box. But it’s definitely something we’ll be watching closely tomorrow.
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