Poll Finds Young Voters Prioritize Bold Policy Change Over Defeating Donald Trump in 2020


June 26, 2019



WASHINGTON, D.C. — Democratic primary voters aged 18-34 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia are highly engaged in the political process and enthusiastic about the Democratic presidential primaries, according to a recent poll from TargetSmart/Civiqs in partnership with the Alliance for Youth Action, the largest network of youth-led grassroots organizing groups in the country. Most young Democratic primary voters say they want Democratic candidates to focus on new, progressive policy proposals, not just defeating Donald Trump.

The survey is the largest of its kind focused exclusively on attitudes and perspectives of Millennial and Generation Z voters heading into the 2020 Democratic primary election. The poll was conducted online among a nationally representative sample of the Civiqs research panel. Respondents, identified by TargetSmart, are eligible 2020 Democratic primary voters who intend to vote in 2020.

View the poll toplines and crosstabs HERE  and the poll memo HERE

“Young people have led the fight for justice in our country since its inception and this generation is no different,” said Sarah Audelo, Executive Director of the Alliance For Youth Action. “They want a Presidential candidate with answers to address our country’s greatest ills from climate change to reproductive justice, immigration reform to battling our student debt crisis. Being anti-Trump is not enough. Candidates must step up to the demands of this generation.”

A clear majority of Democratic primary voters aged 18-34 (63 percent) say they want Democratic candidates to focus on new, progressive policy proposals. Just 31 percent say defeating President Trump is the highest priority, even if that means taking more moderate approaches on policy issues.

Additionally, the vast majority of respondents (67 percent) say they feel engaged with the political process and that their participation can make a difference. Engagement is particularly high among young African-American voters, where more than eight in 10 (82 percent) say they feel engaged in the process. Respondents also say they plan to vote for their favorite presidential candidate rather than the candidate perceived to have the best shot at beating President Trump, by an almost two-to-one margin (63 to 32 percent).

Young Democratic primary voters lean heavily left in their ideological perspective, with more than three in four (76 percent) describing themselves as liberals. Fewer than one in five (19 percent) describe themselves as moderates. While young people care about a myriad of issues, more than three in five (61 percent) surveyed listed climate change, global warming, or the Green New Deal as one of the top three issues they want the Democratic presidential candidate to focus on. That’s more than twice as many as healthcare, the next highest issue, at 26 percent.

Respondents also hold some apprehension about the 2020 election. Seven in ten expect the Democratic primary candidate to defeat President Trump, but only 15 percent are confident in that prediction. The large field of candidates concerns a plurality of these voters (46 percent) and one in three (33 percent) worry that a long and bruising primary will damage the eventual nominee’s chances at victory. More than one in three voters mentioned the sheer number of candidates when asked what comes to mind when thinking about the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, reinforcing apprehension about the election.

Civiqs conducted a survey of 1,912 Democratic presidential primary voters aged 18-34 in the United States from May 16 to 22, 2019. The survey was conducted online among selected members of the Civiqs research panel. Sampled individuals were emailed by Civiqs and responded using a personalized link to the survey at civiqs.com.

The survey results are weighted by age, race, gender, education, and region to be representative of the population of Democratic presidential primary and caucus voters in the United States. The general design effect due to weighting is 1.66. The survey has a margin of error of 2.9% at the 95% confidence level, accounting for the design effect. 


The Alliance for Youth Action is a nationwide network of organizations building the progressive political power of young people across America to strengthen our democracy, fix our economy, and correct injustices through on-the-ground organizing. The Alliance supports and scales the work of local organizations to build a movement of young people, by young people, and for all people.

Millennial Voters

New Automatic Voter Registration + Millennial Voter Report

You already know how much the Alliance loves automatic voter registration (aka AVR, fyi).

Ever since the Oregon Bus Project (now Next Up) started working on Automatic Voter Registration (aka AVR, fyi) back in 2009 – and especially since they led a coalition to pass it in 2015 – we’ve been crowing about how huge it is. We got even louder about it this year, when Chicago Votes and Providence Student Union helped win even more expansive AVR reforms in Illinois and Rhode Island. But some people just don’t believe it unless they read it in a fancy report.

So we got fancy, and got to reporting.

Today, we’re joining with our friends at the Center for American Progress and Generation Progress to publish “Millennial Voters Win With Automatic Voter Registration,” a new analysis of the impact of automatic voter registration on young people and people of color in the Oregon 2016 election.

Check it OUT: Millennials Win with Automatic Voter Registration

And after you read that, find out how to spread the campaign to your community: Automatic Voter Registration Activist Toolkit

Last night’s UK elections show the USA how to help youth rise up at the ballot.

Because we’re ridiculous democracy nerds, we spent last night glued to Twitter watching the returns come in for the UK general election. The tl;dr is that the progressive Labour Party overperformed almost everyone’s expectations, driven in huge part by young people turning up.

Early returns showed that young Britons turned out at 72% – up from 43% two years ago. That’s mind blowing.

Young people voted for Labour by 2:1 over Conservatives, and that’s how Labour surged.

Both at home and abroad, we’re seeing the power of the youth vote, and learning how to unlock it. If you want to win, you need inspired young people. And if you want young people, you need to speak to our needs. (And obviously do a metric ton of peer-to-peer engagement in the field).

To turn out masses of young people, run on economic and racial justice. Labour ran on free college tuition, increased funding for schools, fighting racism and Islamaphobia, protecting renters and helping working people afford to buy homes, giving workers a share in corporate profits, protecting and expanding universal healthcare, and taxing the very wealthiest. Oh, and voting rights for 16-year-olds.

The lack of engagement on economic justice with our generation in the US – a generation that is still working to recover post Recession – led to the creation of our Broke AF campaign. A lot of we’re fighting for matches the platform that inspired young people to turn out in record numbers:

  • Free college tuition and no student debt
  • Guaranteed affordable housing
  • Workers owning a stake in corporate profits

And allying with youth of color led organizations centering racial justice issues from policing to immigration reform allows for a more robust set of demands that truly centers the needs of our generation. When you run on those things, you win. Period. Get it. It’s the truth, y’all.

Plus, Labour also ran more women and people of color for office than they ever had before (and more than any other party).

While we’re not Britain, there are epic lessons to be learned – especially as our generation is engaging now both in the streets AND in the voting booth. To inspire America’s most diverse generation, you also need more than representation. You need to be serious and unapologetic about racial justice. Ending mass incarceration. Ending police brutality. Embracing immigrants. True justice.

Real, true economic justice + racial justice + candidate diversity is how you get young people inspired and turning out. And that’s how you win.

Tell your friends.

Automatic Voter Registration in Oregon

FACT SHEET: Automatic Voter Registration Transforms Oregon Youth Registration & Turnout Rates

By Henry Kraemer |  June, 2017

Fact Sheet: Automatic Voter Registration Transforms Oregon Youth Registration & Turnout.

Also dramatically increases registration rates in communities of color.

After a half-decade of leadership and advocacy from the Bus Project (an affiliate of the Alliance for Youth Action) alongside a coalition of advocates, Oregon passed automatic voter registration in 2015. It became operational in 2016, automatically registering eligible citizens to vote, and update their registration addresses thru DMV records.

Since implementation of automatic voter registration, Oregon has seen rare growth in youth voter turnout – a full 7 percentage points higher in 2016 than 2012. Simultaneously, the state has also seen dramatic increases in registration rates in communities of color – rising by 26 percentage points between December 2015 and January 2017, the largest growth in the nation.

Based on this success, the Alliance for Youth Action has launched the Democracy Done Right campaign to empower other youth led organizations to win automatic voter registration reforms in states around the country – with the goal of replicating Oregon’s extraordinary youth turnout success in every state (previously assisting Alaska in their successful ballot measure, and currently supporting active bills in Illinois and Rhode Island). 

Voter Registration is a Major Barrier to Youth Turnout

  • Approximately half of the turnout gap between voters age 18-to-29 and voters age 30+ is due to registration.
    • In the 2012 general election, 45% of eligible voters cast ballots versus a 66% eligible turnout rate of voters over age-30, a difference of 21 percentage points. The gap in registered voter turnout between older and younger voters in 2012 was just 11 percentage points – 78% for youth and 89% for older voters.
    • In 2014, “not being registered” was the most common reason cited by 18-29-year-old non-voters for why they did not vote. In all, 55 percent of black youth, 45 percent of Latino youth, and 61 percent of white youth said this was the reason they did not cast ballots in the 2014 election.
  • According to a July 2012 CIRCLE poll of young voters, only 13% of young voters held accurate understandings about their state’s voter registration deadline – meaning a shocking 87% did not know their state’s deadline or were misinformed.
  • Americans 18-to-29 change addresses at nearly 2.5 times the annual rate of Americans 30-and-over.  Since under the current structure voters must re-register to vote every time they move, this means young people are disproportionately more likely to lose their registered voter status — often without even realizing it.

After Implementing Automatic Voter Registration, Oregon Saw Huge  Spikes in Youth Turnout, and Registration Rates for People of Color

  • Nearly Half a Million Oregonians Directly Benefited from automatic voter registration in its first year (15% of Oregon’s voting age population).
    • 225,796 voters registered for the general election through the program.
    • 264,551 voters received automatic address updates, ensuring Oregon’s all-mail ballots reached them at their current residences.
  • Over 40% of automatic voter registrants were under-30, despite being only 20% of the overall adult population – nearly 100,000 new automatic registrants were young.
    • Between the 2012 and 2016 general elections, the number of registered Oregon voters age 18-to-29 increased by more than 100,000. During the same period, the overall eligible population of that cohort grew by barely over 12,000 people.
    • After adopting automatic voter registration in January 2016 Oregon achieved 50% eligible voter turnout for all adults-under-30 in the 2016 general election – 7 percentage points higher than the 43% rate for Oregon youth in 2012.
      • A seven percentage point increase in turnout is an unusually high boost following the implementation of a single voting reform – in the November 2012 presidential election all other major voting convenience reforms combined were correlated with a 7 percentage point increase in voter turnout of eligible adults.
      • The 2016 and 2012 electoral environments were extraordinarily similar – no presence of active presidential campaigns in the state,  nor any competitive gubernatorial or senatorial statewide elections.
    • Additionally, Oregon saw the largest increase in registration rates among communities of color in the nation in 2016.
      • According to exploratory analysis done by Blue Labs, in December 2015, Oregon’s registration rate for people of color was 53%, ranking 31st in the US.
      • By January 2017, that registration rate climbed to 79%, the second highest in the nation. Over half of eligible but unregistered people of color were added to the rolls after the implementation of automatic voter registration in Oregon – the most significant improvement of any state in the union (the Blue Labs analysis focused exclusively on registration rates, and did not measure turnout).

How Automatic Voter Registration Works in Oregon

  • As of 2016, Oregon automatically registers voters exclusively through the Department of Motor Vehicles, whose driver license, learners permit, and identification card applications require all information necessary to determine eligibility to vote.
  • When an Oregonian provides their name, address, birth date, and verification of citizenship (most commonly United States birth certificates and United States passports) to the Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency securely forwards the information to the Elections Division of the Secretary of State.
  • Applicants who provide other proofs of residence are not passed through to the Secretary of State, nor are individuals with protected records due to safety risks.
  • All DMV address updates are also sent to the Department of Elections, who verifies the new information against the current records in the state voter file, and updates the voter address if it appears more up-to-date than the voter registration record.
  • Newly registered and updated voters get a postcard saying 1) they have been registered to vote through automatic voter registration, 2) they can opt-out by signing and mailing back the postcard, and 3) to vote in the state’s closed partisan primary, they need to register with a political party by returning the postcard.
  • New automatic registrants are allowed 21 days to return the postcard. Voters who do not return the card are added to the voter registration list as nonaffiliated voters.

Fact Sheet in PDF (includes citations)