Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society fellow Sonam Kotadia detailed young voter trends found in two 2018 surveys fielded by the institute’s Civic Engagement Narrative Change project in a research paper published Friday.
As part of the project’s efforts to address issues in democratic participation regarding the division and disenchantment of voters from underrepresented groups, Nevada and Florida residents between the ages of 18 and 29 answered questions regarding their attitudes toward identity, intergroup relations, the role of government and the efficacy of voting, among other topics.
“(The) Nevada and Florida … surveys demonstrate that 18-29 year olds favor inclusive, progressive policies … at a higher rate than the general population,” the paper states. “What is missing is a strong sense of political efficacy and faith that ‘the system’ will permit change of the type they envision.”
The paper explains how voter outreach programs often push young voters to the sidelines through practices that take their input for “granted” or mark them as “not worth the trouble.” As a result, these practices lead to a limited understanding of young people’s motivations to vote.
According to the paper, both surveys found that young voters tend to support direct government action to combat the issues of growing inequality and unequal access to opportunity. The paper also states, however, that while 18 to 29-year-olds are more aware of the structural barriers faced by Black Americans and immigrants, they generally believe that these disadvantages can be overcome through individual hard work.
“It’s not a surprise that younger people are more liberal — what is surprising is the discrepancies found when talking about structural disadvantages faced by people of color,” said New Voters Project campaign coordinator Charlie Lea. “A lot of the young people that I have worked with put two and two together that if there is this issue we have to face, the answer is to break down these barriers through conventional policies.”
According to Lea, CalPIRG’s New Voters Project focuses not on the apathetic sentiments felt by young voters that the paper suggests, but on the accessibility to voting on campus. Lea added that students on campus face many barriers when it comes to voting that prevent them from creating habits needed to become life-long voters.
New Voters Project assistant coordinator Michelle Wang said the project is currently working to establish automatic voter registration every year for students on campus. In 2018, across campuses, the program registered 6,000 students and created 500,000 contacts statewide through its Get Out the Vote campaign.
“We want to make the student vote as powerful as possible so that politicians realize that our voices matter and our desires matter,” Wang said. “In the end, we are voting for our future because we are the youngest generation voting, so these changes will affect our future the most.”