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Nov 8, 2018 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The 2018 midterm results are in, and while the Democrats’ “Blue Wave” took control of the US House of Representatives for the first time since 2010, it fell short in the Senate. Prior to the election, stakeholders insisted that a high turnout by youth voters could make a difference. All of which begs the question: Did young people show up and did they play a role in driving the results? Here’s a closer look at what we know so far.

Historically Poor Turnout

According to data shared by The Atlantic, 19-to-29-year-olds have had the worst voter turnout of all age groups in every election since the US Census Bureau started keeping record. They have also consistently accounted for the lowest percentage of overall voters.

Many appeals were made in the weeks leading up to the election -- by everyone from the survivors of the Parkland shooting to Taylor Swift -- imploring young people to step up. These efforts appeared to be working: voter registrations surged while several polls suggested that more young people planned to vote.

Despite these early and auspicious signs, experts remained cautious. Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, who heads up Tufts University's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), told the New York Times, “Young people have had a pretty bad reputation when it comes to turning out reliably in high numbers. Especially in the midterms.”

Riding the “Youth Wave” 

The latest numbers reveal that not only did young people turn up, but they did so in such significant numbers that they constituted a wave of their own. CIRCLE data indicates 31 percent of youth aged 18 to 29 voted in the 2018 midterms -- a ten-point jump and “extraordinary increase” over 2014’s estimated 21 percent.

According to researchers, this movement had a major impact on election outcomes. CIRCLE explains, "Young people’s dramatic rise in voter turnout, combined with an overwhelming preference for Democratic candidates, made youth a powerful voting bloc in the 2018 midterms. As we reported yesterday, according to exit polls, 67 percent of youth voted for a House Democratic candidate and just 32 percent for a House Republican candidate, a historic 35-point vote choice gap that almost certainly helped the Democratic Party take control of the House of Representatives."

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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