NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Young Americans Aren't Expected To Vote

November 6, 2000

Less than one-third of 18- to 24-year-olds voted in the last presidential election -- and many predict an even smaller proportion will show up at the polls this year.

Many younger adults say they don't vote because politicians ignore them and their vote doesn't make a difference. But political analysts point out that this attitude becomes self-fulfilling, because pragmatic campaigners focus their limited time and funds on larger groups which are more apt to vote -- such as the more than 70 percent of Americans ages 65 to 74 who turned out in 1996.

  • In 1972, 50 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds reported that they voted -- a proportion which declined to 32 percent in 1996.
  • Within this age group in 1996, white females voted at roughly three times the rate of Hispanic males.
  • This election year, nearly three-quarters of the young people could name the presidential candidates of the two major parties -- but only a third or less could name their vice presidential running mates.
  • Roughly one-quarter in the 18-24 group say their vote doesn't make a difference or they lack facts about the candidates -- while 15 percent say they don't have the time to vote or they are turned off by political mudslinging.

Slightly more than half of those who voted in the 1998 election said they discussed political issues with their parents. That compares to 26 percent who said they never discussed politics.

Source: Frank Pompa, "Why So Many Young Adults Won't Vote Tuesday," USA Today, November 6, 2000.


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