For pollsters and politicians, this year could be a real problem.
Here’s the deal: election surveys use measures of past voting behavior as well as self-declared intent to vote to determine who is really going to vote. Results are them estimated from the response of likely voters.
Why? Because historically, especially in midterm elections, more people say they will vote than actually do so. You can’t take what people say they will do at face value because the don’t always tell the truth. Or they plan to vote and “something comes up.” It’s worse in an age in which many people don’t understand the concept of civic duty.
- Only 55% of eligable adults voted in the 2016 presidential election.
Interestingly, the only age group to have an increase in turnout in 2016 were the Millennials.
However, this year is unusual on several counts:
- It’s a midterm election, so voting rates are typically much lower among adults than in Presidential elections.
- There’s a cohort of roughly 4.3 million Americans who are turning 18 this year.
- If these 18 year olds vote at say a 75% rate, you will change some election results and make some “safe” seats quite unsafe.
- If the 18 year olds can motivate older Millennials, the results will be even more pronounced.
- If the Hispanic community is moved to action, the results could be quite different than what anyone now expects.
The old line politicians are betting that the youth movement will evaporate before the election.
Pollsters will be split in how they deal with defining likely voters. That means that some of their projections are going to be quite off.
However, the trend among Millennials is toward more participation, not less. We’ll see what the young people can do.
It’s going to be an unusually interesting year.