Young voters repulse ‘Red Sea’ in US midterm election

Generation Z, the most well-educated, racially and ethnically diverse generation yet, repulsed the “red wave” many were anticipating in the 2022 midterm election by being another force of nature entirely.

With the 2022 election likely having the second-highest youth turnout rate for a midterm election in nearly 30 years, the estimated 27% of people between the ages of 18-29 who turned out to vote made an impact throughout the nation in key races, according to day-after estimates from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

CIRCLE figures also estimate that youth voter turnout may have even been higher (31%) in battleground states like Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania where exit poll data is available. However, totals may shift as outcomes are still being finalized.

In the highly-publicized Pennsylvania Senate race between Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz, 70% of voters between the ages 18-29 cast their ballots for Fetterman, the Democratic Senate nominee.

Nationally, 63% of young voters opted for Democrats in the House of Representatives race, while 35% voted for Republicans, an Edison Research National Election Pool exit poll found.

In helping Democrats keep their majority in 2022, Gen Z also combatted the “red wave” in the Senate.

The exit poll indicates that voters under the age of 29 were the only cohort with a large majority supporting Democrats, with older voters primarily opting for Republicans and voters between the ages of 30-44 largely splitting their votes along party lines.

Florida’s 10th congressional district also made history on Election Day, electing Democrat Maxwell Alejandro Frost, 25, as the nation’s first Gen Z U.S. representative.

“History was made tonight,” Frost said in an election night tweet. “We made history for Floridians, for Gen Z, and for everyone who believes we deserve a better future.”

In a press conference on Nov. 11, President Joe Biden praised young Americans for casting their vote.

“I especially want to thank the young people of this nation, who – I’m told, I haven’t seen the numbers – voted in historic numbers again and just as they did two years ago,” Biden said. “They voted to continue addressing the climate crisis, gun violence, their personal rights and freedoms and the student debt relief.”

In Michigan, all of these priorities were a focus of the midterm election for young voters.

At Oakland University, an institution listed in the Washington Monthly’s list of America’s Best Colleges for Student Voting and host of the final gubernatorial debate between Democratic incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Republican challenger Tudor Dixon, five students shared their reactions to midterm results.

“This election proved that most of us approve of progress instead of regression,” Tara Coker, a sophomore majoring in elementary education, said.

Education and the differing views of the gubernatorial candidates on the subject were also important to Coker when casting her vote.

“I know for myself and other education majors, tuition and affording the demands of student teaching are major concerns, so I have more security in my future knowing the person who championed these applications is still going to be governor while I’m completing my degree in elementary education at OU,” she said.

Environmental sciences student Chiara Nava was happy to see that Whitmer will continue her climate agenda.

“I am pleased to have a governor who believes in science and is working to combat climate change within Michigan,” she said.

Nava also shared she woke up with a sense of relief after hearing that Proposal 3, the constitutional amendment to enshrine reproductive rights into the state constitution, had passed.

“As a woman, reproductive freedom is an essential human right, so I woke up relieved to the news that this is a protected right for all of us,” Nava said. “The decisions made in this election will ensure I have the right to choose what I want to do with my body.”

Sama Joseph, a senior majoring in biomedical sciences, reflected on how Proposal 3 will impact her future career in medicine.

“Proposal 3 would probably affect me as a future physician,” she said. “No matter what the decision is, it will affect the way I practice medicine either way, because I will always have to keep in mind the laws and regulations when making a life-altering decision for my patients.”

Human resources management and sociology student Maris Ferguson described her personal take on the election results as “pretty satisfying.”

“The issues and races of most value to me went as I hoped, and I think on both a state and national level we have been set up for great progress,” she said.

For political science and philosophy student Jeremy Johnson, election-denying candidates losing their races should be taken as a lesson for sustaining American democracy.

“Election-denying candidates losing in this election, especially in Michigan, is huge for 2024,” he said. “I hope it teaches candidates that you cannot be anti-democracy and expect to win elections. Of course, some election deniers won elsewhere, but the victories were not as nearly as ubiquitous as expected, and that should be a lesson.”