Midterm voter turnout reached a modern high in 2018, and Generation Z, Millennials and Generation X accounted for a narrow majority of those voters, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of newly available Census Bureau data.
The three younger generations – those ages 18 to 53 in 2018 – reported casting 62.2 million votes, compared with 60.1 million cast by Baby Boomers and older generations. It’s not the first time the younger generations outvoted their elders: The same pattern occurred in the 2016 presidential election.
Higher turnout accounted for a significant portion of the increase. Millennials and Gen X together cast 21.9 million more votes in 2018 than in 2014. (The number of eligible voter Millennials and Gen Xers grew by 2.5 million over those four years, due to the number of naturalizations exceeding mortality.) And 4.5 million votes were cast by Gen Z voters, all of whom turned 18 since 2014.
By comparison, the number of votes cast by Boomer and older generations increased 3.6 million. Even this modest increase is noteworthy, since the number of eligible voters among these generations fell by 8.8 million between the elections, largely due to higher mortality among these generations.
Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers all set records for turnout in a midterm election in 2018. Turnout rates increased the most for the Millennial generation, roughly doubling between 2014 and 2018 – from 22% to 42%. Among Generation Z, 30% of those eligible to vote (those ages 18 to 21 in this analysis) turned out in the first midterm election of their adult lives. And for the first time in a midterm election, more than half of Gen Xers reported turning out to vote. While turnout tends to increase with age, every age group also voted at higher rates than in 2014, and the increase was more pronounced among younger adults.
Challenges in estimating voter turnout rates with the Current Population Survey
Together, Gen Z and Millennials reported casting 30.6 million votes, a quarter of the total. Gen Z was responsible for 4.5 million, or 4%, of all votes. This post-Millennial generation is just starting to reach voting age, and their impact will likely be felt more in the 2020 presidential election, when they are projected to be 10% of eligible voters.
Millennials, ages 22 to 37 in 2018, cast 26.1 million votes, far higher than the number of votes they cast in 2014 (13.7 million).
Generation X, those ages 38 to 53 in 2018, cast 31.6 million votes – the first time they had more than 30 million votes in a midterm election. Their turnout rate also increased, from 39% in 2014 to 55% four years later.
Baby Boomers, those ages 54 to 72 in 2018, had their highest-ever midterm election turnout (64%, the same rate as the Silent Generation) and cast more votes than they ever have in a midterm (44.1 million). Still, they had a relatively smaller turnout increase than the younger generations (53% of Boomers turned out in 2014). Overall, Boomers cast 36% of ballots in last year’s election – their lowest share of midterm voters since 1986 – because of mortality, while the younger generations are still growing due to naturalizations and adults turning 18.