Polls for the upcoming midterm elections are swinging between which party will win the most seats, but the prevailing sentiment is that the Democrats are in big trouble because of Republican narratives about inflation, gas prices and criminality. ‘Fearing another shellacking, Democrats rush for economic message,’ read a recent New York Times headline for an article that quoted a Democratic pollster expressing concern that summer’s party support was ‘evaporating’. .
The Democratic margin of young women ages 18 to 29 who say they are likely to vote has jumped 9 points from the spring to now. And the most important issue for a plurality of these voters? Abortion.
But while polls show an airtight margin in Tuesday’s election, they generally don’t account for turnout: Young voters registered this midterm cycle at rates matching or exceeding historic 2018 levels, and the concern of young women, in particular to have less bodily autonomy than their mothers and grandmothers, is what motivates him.
But I noticed a reluctance to acknowledge this potential impact. On October 31, the head of elections in Georgia Gabriel Sterling tweeted“The largest age group recorded in Georgia is 18-24 with 853,426 registrants. However, only 65,605 voted. It is 7.68% of the youngest voters who vote.
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According to Tom Bonier, CEO of Democratic political data services company TargetSmart, there is a possible explanation for the discrepancy. “Most pollsters asked ‘How are you going to vote?’ or ‘When do you plan to vote?’ and young voters are the ones who say ‘election day’ most often,” he told me. He added: “When you look at the special election on the 19th in New York, the Kansas primary, some of these high-turnout elections we’ve had in the last two months, younger voters were more likely to vote on Election Day than older voters. .”
Despite this encouraging data and the potentially major story it tells, pundits have been reluctant to acknowledge it as a legitimate factor in the midterm elections. It’s what I’ve dubbed the “Hillary Effect”: Pollsters and political forecasters who answered “I’m with her” in 2016 and were mortified when Donald Trump won are afraid to put forward the ability of women to be the decisive variable in an election. He was seen as embarrassing to be a cheerleader for women — especially a specific, polarizing woman — and in turn, the mostly male, mostly white political forecasting establishment found themselves in the middle of year-long gender course correction.
Prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, voters under 25 made up 21% of new voter registrations nationwide, according to TargetSmart statistics. But since then, their overall share has risen to 26%, and 31% since the beginning of October. Data from the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University confirms the same trends. “The surge in youth registration was driven by young women,” says Bonier, who was forced to dig into voter registration data after the startling results of the NY Congressional Special Election 19 and the Kansas State primary over the summer.
On the Kansas ballot was an amendment to the state Constitution that would remove language enshrining abortion rights, and the vote was a resounding “no” that crossed parties and genders. But when Bonier took a closer look at the registration data, a more specific story emerged: He found that 70% of Kansans who registered to vote after the Dobbs decision were women with a median age of 23. And in September, after further analysis, he found the data to be predictive of turnout. “In the August vote on abortion rights in Kansas, women under 25 participated at a higher rate than all men (45% to 43%),” he said. .
70% of Kansans who registered to vote after the Dobbs decision were women with a median age of 23.
It was entirely possible that Kansas was a fluke, with Dobbs’ immediate momentum behind him. But after analyzing registration data from across the country since then, he found that the trend was continuing.
“Before Dobbs, there was a negative gender gap among new enrollees under 25, with men outnumbering women by 2 points,” he told me. “In the two weeks since Dobbs, the gender gap among young voters has reversed significantly to 7 points – a change of 9 points. Since then, the gender gap has persisted at a 3 point margin.
The trend held especially true in battleground states: Arizona posted an 8-point gap among new enrollees under 25 immediately after Dobbs. Similarly, Michigan and North Carolina both showed a 9-point gap, Ohio with 11, and Pennsylvania with a 24-point gender gap in registration since abortion rights were been upset, according to data shared with me by TargetSmart.
A recent Harvard Institute of Politics poll found that young voters are even more likely to vote than the national average. “Battleground State polls are far from settled, I don’t know if we’ll see a red wave or a blue wave on Nov. 8 – but we’ll see a Gen Z wave,” said the the institute’s polling director, John Della Volpe, in an email.
While the poll notably found that youth voter turnout is expected to match or exceed 2018 record highs and that these voters prefer democratic control of Congress by 57% to 31%, what intrigued me most was a statistic which matched voter registration data: The Democratic margin of young women ages 18 to 29 who say they are likely to vote has jumped 9 points from the spring to now. And the most important issue for a plurality of these voters? Abortion.
A poll conducted in mid-September by PerryUndem, a nonpartisan public opinion research firm, digs deeper into the mindset of these motivated young female voters. It revealed that 76% of women under 20 “can consider a scenario in which abortion is the best option for them”, and 68% say that “the lack of rights and access to abortion is a big problem in our society. And 81% say the Supreme Court ruling made them think about “losing many freedoms.”
“This shift in policy has affected the thinking of many young women on a fundamental level,” Tresa Undem, co-founder and partner of PerryUndem, told me. “Many have thought about the risk of death if they get pregnant. Dobbs has made many not want to have children. It is who is most personally affected by any reproductive health policy.
If young women show up in the volume they have recorded, their power as an electoral bloc could help protect a nation against the myriad of cultural and socio-economic challenges resulting from a lack of access to health care. abortion. Let’s hope they pull through.