The Youth Vote, Explained in Deep Detail

The youth vote at work.Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal via ZUMA

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What’s with the youth vote, anyway? Every four years the kids seem really excited, but then they don’t turn out to vote. What’s going on?

The answer is surprisingly simple. When we think of the “youth vote,” the image that almost certainly pops into your mind is a 20-year-old college student wearing a Bernie cap and leading campus rallies against sexual violence. They care about social justice, climate change, and trans rights. But even if college students vote in large numbers, they make up only a small percentage of the 18-29 population. There are roughly 17 million undergrads enrolled in two- and four-year colleges right now, compared to a total population of 54 million. That’s 30 percent.

The other 70 percent are all working stiffs. You won’t see them in the pictures used to illustrate stories about “what young people are thinking today,” but they constitute by far the biggest share of this demographic—and to put it gently, they probably care about different things than your typical university undergrad. This is the real youth vote, and that makes them the voters we need to target. But do we?

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

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ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

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