VA 18-22 population went down, but voter registration went up

(The Center Square) – The number of Virginians aged between 18 and 22 decreased from 2012 to 2020, but the number of registered voters in that age range skyrocketed during that time period.

In 2012, there were 587,901 Virginians aged between 18 and 22, but that number went down to 574,721 by 2020, according to numbers provided by the Virginia Public Access Project. That’s more than a 2.2% decrease over those eight years.

Despite fewer overall numbers, the age demographic became much more politically active in that timeframe. In 2012, 262,416 of them were registered to vote, which is only about 44.6%. In 2020, the number of registered voters between 18 and 22 jumped to 393,662, which represents nearly 68.5% of the age block.

The numbers show a nearly 24 percentage point increase during that time. It also shows the number of registered voters in that age range increasing by more than 50%.

Youth voter turnout in the commonwealth also increased during former President Donald Trump’s presidency, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. However, it was down again after he was out of office.

According to CIRCLE, 17% of Virginians aged 18 through 29 voted in the 2009 elections, but increased to 26% in the 2013 elections and went up to 34% in the 2017 elections. In each of these years, a governor’s race was on the ballot. The youth vote dropped in the 2021 gubernatorial race to 27%, which puts it closer to the 2013 election.

The youth vote in the commonwealth leans overwhelmingly Democratic, according to opinion polling. In the 2009 election, which saw low voter turnout from young voters, Republican Bob McDonnell won by a wide margin of more than 17 percentage points. Since then, gubernatorial elections have been closer: in 2013, Democrat Terry McAuliffe won by about 2.5 percentage points, in 2017, Democrat Ralph Northam won by nearly nine percentage points and in 2021, Republican Glenn Youngkin won by about two percentage points.

In 2013 and 2017, the youth voter turnout increased by more than the overall voter turnout increase. The percentage of all Virginians who voted in 2013 increased by just 2.6 percentage points from the previous election as youth voter turnout increased by nine percentage points. In 2017, the percentage of all Virginians who voted increased by another 4.6 percentage points, but the youth vote surpassed that with an eight-point increase. Yet despite overall voter turnout increasing in the 2021 election by a whopping 7.7 percentage points, the youth vote was down by about seven percentage points.

For each of these years, the youth vote turnout was lower as a percentage than the state’s overall voter turnout.

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