Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. SD 1.4 Voting Behavior of Young Adults

01/01/2000

Voting is a critical exercise of citizenship in a democracy. Measures of the voting behavior of young adults may be seen as indicators of the level of youth commitment to the democratic process.

Rates of reported voter registration and voting among 18- through 24-year-olds during presidential election years declined between 1972 and 1976 and have stayed rather flat through 1996 (see Table SD 1.4.A). In 1972, 59 percent of young adults ages 18 through 24 reported that they had registered to vote, and 50 percent reported that they had voted. By 1996, 46 percent reported that they had registered, and 31 percent reported that they had voted (see Figure SD 1.4.A).

Differences by Gender. Reported rates of voter registration and voting are modestly higher among women both over time and within racial and ethnic groups, particularly during presidential election years; for example, in 1996, 51 percent of females and 47 percent of males ages 18 through 24 reported that they had registered to vote (see Table SD 1.4.A).

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin. Hispanic young adults are the least likely to report that they register and vote. In 1996, 28 percent of Hispanic young adults reported that they had registered, and 15 percent reported that they had voted. Comparable numbers for blacks are 49 percent registered and 32 percent voted. Whites were the most likely to report that they had registered (50 percent) and voted (32 percent) in 1996 (see Figure SD 1.4.B). Since 1972, the percentage of Hispanic young adults who reported that they had voted in presidential election years has declined by almost one-half, from 31 percent to 15 percent (see Table SD 1.4.A).

Differences by Electoral Cycle. The percentage of young adults who reported that they had voted in nonpresidential election years since 1974 is substantially lower than the percentage who reported that they had voted during presidential election years (see Table SD 1.4.B). Rates of reported registration and voting have been remarkably stable during such years, across nonpresidential election years, with overall rates varying by only a few percentage points across the years.

 

Table SD 1.4. A Percentage of persons ages 18 through 24 in the United States who reported that they had registered to vote and percentage who reported that they had voted in presidential election years, by race and Hispanic origin and by gender: Selected years, 1972-1996

  1972 1976 1980 1984 1988 1992 1996
Percentage who reported registering
All races a  
   Total 59 51 49 51 48 53 49
  Male 58 51 48 50 46 50 47
  Female 59 52 50 53 51 54 51
White  
  Total 61 54 51 52 49 75 50
  Male 60 53 50 51 46 53 48
  Female 61 54 52 53 51 57 52
Black  
  Total 48 39 41 54 50 49 49
  Male 45 38 40 49 47 46 45
  Female 50 40 43 58 53 52 53
Hispanic  
  Total 39 29 23 30 25 25 28
  Male 38 30 20 27 21 20 25
  Female 39 28 25 32 30 30 31
Percentage who reported voting
All races a  
   Total 50 42 40 41 36 43 32
  Male 49 41 39 39 34 41 30
  Female 50 43 41 43 38 45 35
White  
  Total 52 45 42 42 37 45 33
  Male 51 43 40 40 35 43 31
  Female 53 46 60 43 39 47 35
Black  
  Total 35 28 30 41 35 37 32
  Male 32 27 29 36 32 32 26
  Female 37 29 31 45 37 41 38
Hispanic  
  Total 31 22 16 22 17 18 15
  Male 30 22 13 20 14 14 12
  Female 32 22 19 24 20 22 19

a Estimates for whites and blacks include Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Note: Current Population Survey figures routinely overestimate voter registration and turnout when compared to the official rates.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-20, 466,253,322,370,405,440,504.

 

Figure SD 1.4.A Percentage of persons ages 18 through 24 in the United States who reported that they had registered to vote and percentage who reported that they had voted in presidential election years: Selected years, 1972-1996

Note: Current Population Survey figures routinely overestimate voter registration and turnout when compared to the official rates.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-20, 253, 293, 322, 344, 370, 405, 414, 453, 466, and PPL24-RV.

 

Table SD 1.4.B Percentage of persons ages 18 through 24 in the United States who reported that they had registered to vote and percentage who reported that they had voted in nonpresidential election years, by race and Hispanic origin and by gender: Selected years, 1974-1998

  1974 1978 1982 1986 1990 1994 1998
Percentage who reported registering
All races a  
   Total 41 41 42 42 40 42 39
  Male 42 40 42 41 40 41 36
  Female 41 42 43 43 40 44 42
White  
  Total 43 41 43 42 41 44 41
  Male 44 41 44 42 40 38
  Female 42 42 43 43 41 43
Black  
  Total 34 37 57 46 40 42 38
  Male 31 35 38 43 41 33
  Female 36 40 45 49 40 42
Hispanic  
  Total 23 21 24 22 19 20 22
  Male 24 22 24 20 18 18
  Female 23 20 25 24 21 27
Percentage who reported voting
All races a  
   Total 24 24 25 22 20 20 17
  Male 25 23 25 21 20 19 16
  Female 23 24 25 23 21 22 18
White  
  Total 25 24 25 22 21 21 17
  Male 29 24 26 21 20 17
  Female 24 25 24 22 22 18
Black  
  Total 16 20 26 25 20 17 16
  Male 16 19 24 24 20 13
  Female 17 21 27 26 21 18
Hispanic  
  Total 13 12 14 12 9 10 9
  Male 14 13 14 10 7 6
  Female 13 10 14 13 16 12

 

a Estimates for whites and blacks include Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Note: Current Population Survey figures routinely overestimate voter registration and turnout when compared to the official rates.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of the Census, Current Population Reports, Series P-20, 253, 293, 322, 344, 370, 405, 414, 453, 466, and PPL24-RV; Reported voting and registration for the United States, 1998, table 2, available online at www.census.gov/population/socdemo/voting/cps1998/tab02.txt

 

Figure SD 1.4.B Percentage of persons ages 18 through 24 in the United States who registered to vote and percentage who voted in nonpresidential election year 1998, by race and Hispanic origin a

a Estimates for whites and blacks include Hispanics of those races. Persons of Hispanic origin may be of any race.
Note: Current Population Survey figures routinely overestimate voter registration and turnout when compared to the official rates.
Sources: Casper, & Bass, 1998.

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