Millennials, as the meme goes, are easy to blame for just about everything: the rise of avocado toast, the end of home ownership, the death of Applebee’s. Older generations have characterized them as lazy and apathetic, including when it comes to politics. And Generation Z has started to receive the same treatment. But new polling suggests that young people will vote in next week’s midterms at levels not seen in at least three decades.
A Harvard poll suggests that midterm turnout among Millennial and Generation Z voters could be historically high. Its findings, released Monday morning, may signal that the spike in Millennial political involvement that began after the 2016 election of Donald Trump hasn’t lost steam in the past two years. Other recent data indicate that this engagement transcends typical political activity. “We’re starting to notice that the personal is political,” said Mari Jones, a Harvard student who helped run the poll. “Big events in American politics cause young people to think about politics differently.”
The survey, from the university’s Institute of Politics (IOP), found that 40 percent of young people ages 18 to 29 said they would “definitely vote” in the upcoming midterm elections. Historically, the biannual poll is off by high single digits from actual youth turnout. But if just 22 percent of this group votes, it would be the highest midterm turnout for young voters in at least 32 years. According to IOP’s director of polling, John Della Volpe, in the past three decades youth-voter turnout has only hit 21 percent twice—in 1986 and 1994. To Della Volpe, the potential turnout is starting to look more like it did in the 2016 presidential election than it did during the last midterms, in 2014.