Civic spirit was awakened in young voters — and it saved the Senate for Democrats: analysis
Young people celebrating America / Shutterstock

Landslide support for Democrats and a surging youth vote were likely decisive in key Senate races that allowed Democrats to remain control of the upper body.

John Yang of PBS News interviewed John Della Volpe of the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics and Victor Shi of Voters of Tomorrow about what they had learned from studying the results.

Yang asked Della Volpe, "how big a difference did these voters make in the midterms?"

"I think they made all the difference, John," Della Volpe replied.

Della Volpe is author of the 2022 book Fight: How Gen Z Is Channeling Their Fear and Passion to Save America.

"Let me break it down for your pretty simply. When you think about Gen Z, and you add in millennials, OK, those are essentially two generations of voters who have a similar set of values, they voted for Democrats by 18 points, OK, plus-18 for Democrats, the under-40 vote, 59-41," Della Volpe explained. "Republicans won the over-40 vote, which, as you said, is much larger, by 10 points. So, if not for Gen Z, and the combination of Gen Z and millennials, I do think we have that red wave that so many people were expecting. Gen Z, specifically the people under 30, increased their level of participation relative to the average, increase their support for Democrats, and made all the difference in the world a couple of weeks ago."

He specifically listed three Senate races, the Democratic Party pick-up in Pennsylvania where Lt. Gov. John Fetterman triumphed over Dr. Mehmet Oz and the re-elections of Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV).

"But, real quick, John, this isn't the first cycle that we have seen. This happened in 2018. And it also happened in 2020. So this should not be a surprise," Della Volpe said.

"For so long before, youth — young voters were seen, and also in the turnout, were unreliable, as compared to the older voters," Yang said. "What — why the change? Why the shift?"

"So, when Baby Boomers were young voters, when Gen X were young voters, and when millennials were young voters, they voted at roughly half the level as this generation of Gen Z. And two things happened, I think, John, in 2018. The combination of President Trump's election, on the heels of President Obama, showed how relevant politics can be in the lives of young people. That's one," Della Volpe replied. "People began to pay attention and to see the tangible difference, part one. The second part, though, is on the heels of the tragedy of Parkland and the work that those young people did to call attention to the epidemic of school shootings, to mobilize folks, to register, and to make sure that they voted. The combination of those two factors, I believe, basically kind of awakened the civic spirit within Gen Z."

Della Volpe said Millennials and Gen Z will account for 40% of the electorate in 2024 and said "politics is very, very meaningful for this generation."

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Higher young voter turnout in midterms changes approach to major political issues