VOTE 20

Young Voters Propelled Biden To The Presidency

Young people turned out in record numbers and helped Biden pick up key battleground states that Democrats lost in 2016.

A crowd watches screens in Times Square after it was announced that Democratic candidate Joe Biden would be the next president of the United States on November 7, 2020 in New York. | Getty Images
A crowd watches screens in Times Square after it was announced that Democratic candidate Joe Biden would be the next president of the United States on November 7, 2020 in New York. | Getty Images

Young voters helped propel Joe Biden to victory in the 2020 election, data shows.

In the months leading up to the election, lawmakers, organizations and celebrities galvanized young voters to make their voices heard at the polls — and they ultimately showed up in record numbers.

Between 52% and 55% of eligible people under the age of 30 voted this year, based on estimates by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or “CIRCLE” at Tufts University — compared to the 42% to 44% of voters in the same demographic that showed up at the polls in 2016. According to The Hill, even when young adults turned out in record numbers to support Barack Obama, those numbers hovered around 48%.

Voters between 18 and 29 years old backed Biden over President Trump by 61% to 36%, according to a pre-election and Election Day survey of about 140,000 voters around the country, the results of which were compiled by the Associated Press.

Voting data also shows that college towns were instrumental in Biden’s victory in battleground states that Trump took in 2016, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. In Washtenaw County, where the University of Michigan is located, Biden received more votes than Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received in 2016. Biden’s post-recount victory was also reaffirmed in Dane County, where the University of Wisconsin-Madison is located, helping to solidify his victory over Trump in the state. 

“In many of these states, young voters were the difference between winning and losing,” Guy Cecil, chairman of the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA told the Wall Street Journal

Americans faced excessive hurdles to get their votes counted in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic put immense pressure on the country’s mail-in voting system, which Trump continuously undermined and tried to sabotage. Voters in some states also had to wait for hours in long lines to cast their ballot in person — including in Georgia, which has faced accusations of voter suppression.

Charlotte Hill, a Ph.D. candidate at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy, also claims in a working report that youth voters face more voting difficulties than older Americans. 

“Our voting rules have largely been written by older, whiter people with more formal education, whose parents and grandparents and great-grandparents always had the right to vote and passed their knowledge down to their kids,” she told Teen Vogue. “Voting is a lot harder for people who are new to the system and don’t have the expertise, time, money, or flexibility to easily participate.”

Young voters could also be instrumental in Georgia’s runoff elections, which will determine which party controls the Senate. According to metrics from CIRCLE, young voters (particularly young Black voters) contributed around 20% of Georgia’s votes, which helped to turn the state blue this year.

Democrats are now hoping that the over 20,000 young people in Georgia who will become eligible to vote between the November election and the runoff elections in January will help them turn the Senate blue as well.