Statement: New data shows youth voter turnout on track to surpass 2016

Virtual organizing effort from students help drive the increase amongst their peers

Press Release

-For immediate Release-

For More Information:
Nicole Walter, WashPIRG Students Lead Organizer, 626-622-8761, [email protected]
Manny Rin, Student PIRGs New Voters Project Director, 925-234-1457, [email protected]

Washington — New data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) estimates that the percentage of all eligible young voters, ages 18-29, who cast a ballot in 2016 may increase between 5 to 10 percentage points in 2020. CIRCLE estimates based on votes counted as of November 6, suggest that 49%-51% of voting-eligible young people, ages 18-29, cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election. Using the same methodology and data from the same point in 2016, CIRCLE had estimated that youth voter turnout would be 42-44%. Preliminary projected youth voter turnout estimates are based on projected total ballots cast.

CIRCLE is also projecting that once all votes are counted, youth turnout may rise to a historic 53%-56%. CIRCLE’s previous 2016 projection based on the same data was that youth voter turnout that year would be 45%-48%. According to CIRCLE if youth voter turnout reaches a level around 55%, that would put voter turnout for ages 18-29 on par with its highest level ever in 1972, the year after the voting age was lowered to 18.

The Student PIRGs New Voters Project, one of the country’s oldest and largest youth-led voter mobilization efforts, ran registration and get-out-the-vote volunteer actions on more than 100 college campuses across 17 states this fall. More than 3,000 student volunteers focused on peer-to-peer outreach to help register, educate and mobilize their fellow students to vote despite the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

More than 50 student leaders from WashPIRG Students educated more than 50,000 of their peers leading up to the polls closing on November 3rd. In Washington, the group had more than 13,000 interactions where young advocates helped new voters make plans to cast their ballot. 

Preliminary surveys also indicate that the youth vote share (the percentage of all votes in a state cast by young people ages 18-29) increased in Washington from 15 percent in 2016 to 17 percent in 2020. 

Maddie Moore, University of Washington senior and WashPIRG Students Vice Chair, released the following statement:

“This increase in youth turnout is indicative of the rising energy amongst young people to shape the future of our country. The work done by thousands of New Voters Project student leaders across the country and here in Washington harnessed this energy to virtually organize our campus communities in creative ways to make sure our peers turned out to vote this election. I’m proud to have been able to do this amazing work and to help young people understand the true value of our vote.”

The Student PIRGs voter registration and turnout effort is part of its New Voters Project campaign, one of the largest nonpartisan youth voter mobilization efforts in the country. The Student PIRGs’ New Voters Project has run peer-to-peer student voter mobilization drives to turn out the youth vote on college campuses for more than 30 years. Its philosophy is that the full participation of young people in the political process is essential to a truly representative, vibrant democracy. The New Voters Project does not endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, a political candidate or political party for elected office.
The Student PIRGs are a network of student run and student funded organizations that work with professional staff at colleges and universities to make sure our peers have the skills, opportunities and training they need to create a better, more sustainable future for all of us. Our chapters on 35 campuses provide the training, professional support and resources students need to tackle climate change, protect public health, revitalize our democracy, feed the hungry and more. For over 40 years we’ve helped students to get organized, mobilized and energized so they can continue to be on the cutting edge of positive change.