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What’s Motivating First-Time Voters in the 2018 Midterm Election?

By Alyson Klein — October 31, 2018 2 min read
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Next week, millions of 18- and 19-year-olds will have the chance to put what they’ve learned—or didn’t—in civics class in action, when they head to the polls for the first time.

Those eligible for the first time are more likely to actually cast their ballots if they’ve had a stand-alone civics class in school. Just a quarter of people who have never taken a stand-alone civics class plan to vote. Nearly twice as many do not, said Holly Kurtz, the director of the Education Week Research Center.

The Research Center recently surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,339 18- and 19-year-olds who have never taken part in a general election.

These potential first-time voters said they are most likely to get their information about candidates from family members, followed by television news and social media sites, like YouTube. And they’ve been influenced by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and President Donald Trump. Their top issues include gun control, immigration, racism, and crime and violence.

I did a deep-dive into the survey, which you can read here. And my colleague, Michelle Davis, explains how first-time voters get their information here.

Media outlets across the country also covered the survey, which was produced with support from the Education Writers Association and shared with the organization’s members. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • U.S. News looked into the impact of the Parkland shootings on young voter engagement. And their story noted that first-time voters may not know much about the candidates they are selecting.
  • The Island Mirror noted that young voter turnout could be at record levels.
  • The blogs, The Movement and Lipstick Alley, talked to young voters, including Taylor McKenzie, 18, who found herself becoming more politically engaged after the Parkland shooting. “There was a rush of younger people who were speaking out. For once in my life, people looked at me and thought I had something to say,” she said. One News Page explores a similar angle.
  • Houston Public Media and the Florida Oracle noted that young voters see gun violence as a top concern.
  • The Lafeyette Daily Advertiser gives a rundown of the survey’s findings, noting that those planning to vote tend to live in suburban areas, identify as liberal, are a current or former private school student, engage in civic activities and identify school shootings as their top social concern.
  • The 74 Million and LA School Report note that young people have become more political engaged because of gun violence, but asks whether it will really motivate them to vote.
  • The Orlando Sentinel also noted that Parkland has helped pique students’ interest in politics.
  • Idaho Ed News notes that teens who aren’t planning to vote are most likely to identify as politically moderate, be unengaged in civic activities, and identify their top concern as guns and gun control.
  • And the Colorado Springs Gazette looked at not just first-time voters, but also students who are actually going to be serving as election judges.

The survey is part of Education Week‘s ongoing Citizen Z project. Read more about the entire project here.

Students wait for the speakers to arrive at the get out the vote event hosted by the NH Young Democrats at UNH on Oct. 28, 2018 in Durham, N.H. --Cheryl Senter/AP

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