CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
conducts research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans.
The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

Top 10 Congressional Districts Where Youth Might Decide the 2018 Elections

March 1st, 2018
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In many communities, young people make up a substantial proportion of the population, yet are sometimes not included in campaign outreach. More local elections can help to connect issues youth care about in their communities to elections. The Youth Electoral Significance Index (YESI) utilizes indicators of demographics, historical voting patterns, and projected competitiveness to produce a ranking of the states and districts where young people (ages 18-29) have the highest potential for impact on the 2018 elections.

Today, CIRCLE is releasing the top 10 congressional districts where young people might have an especially high electoral influence. Later this month will release the top ten Senate and Governor races.

Here’s why these ten districts ranked so highly:

  1. Iowa 1st (Cedar Rapids) – Iowa’s 1st district has 20 colleges and universities and a high proportion of 18 to 29-year-olds enrolled in college (over 40%). The district population is predominantly white and young people had one of the 20 best turnout rates in the nation in the 2014 midterms: 22%. There are several so-called pivot counties in this district, meaning that voters supported President Obama in 2012 and President Trump in 2016; so competitiveness will be a factor.
  2. Minnesota 1st (Rochester-Mankato-Winona) – More than 16 percent of the population in this Minnesota district is young, and recent youth turnout has been moderate. There are 15 institutions of higher education in the district, well above the national average. The area is largely rural, covering the southern border of the state. The district’s overall population has characteristics that are associated with high turnout. There are several so-called pivot counties in this district (where voters supported President Obama in 2012 and President Trump in 2016), and the race is ranked as competitive.
  3. Minnesota 3rd (Western Suburbs of Minneapolis) – Competitiveness is the story here, combined with historically high turnout. This district is represented by a Republican member, but voters supported President Obama and then Secretary Clinton (by more than a 10-point margin). It was recently ranked as a toss-up. Voters in this district tend to turnout at higher rates, including young people; 27% of under-30s voted in the 2014 midterms, which was the 7th highest youth turnout in the country. Combined, these two factors may drive attention and young voters to the polls.
  4. Michigan 11th (Wayne-Oakland) – This district, which sits between Detroit and Ann Arbor (but does not include either city), is expected to be very competitive in 2018. The incumbent, David Trott (R), has announced he will not seek reelection, and more than 10 candidates have entered the race. While the number of young people living in the district is not notably high, the ratio of those youth who are enrolled in college is very high, a factor associated with higher turnout.
  5. Colorado 6th (Adams-Arapahoe-Douglas) – This is another Congressional race that is expected to be highly competitive in 2018. The incumbent, Republican Mike Coffman, was first elected in 2008, but the district went for President Obama in 2012 and for Secretary Clinton in 2019 (by 9 points), and continues to be considered a battleground district. College enrollment in the district is high, and youth turnout was 26%in 2014, among the 10 highest participation rates in the nation.
  6. Minnesota 8th (Duluth-Grand Rapids) – An ultracompetitive district where incumbent Democrat Rick Nolan won reelection by less than 2% in 2014 and less than 1% in 2016—despite the fact that it encompasses several pivot counties that helped President Trump win the district by a substantial 15% margin. Young people make up nearly 14% of the Minnesota 8th’s population and more than 23% turned out to vote in 2014 (the 18th best youth turnout across the nation), casting over 20,000 ballots in a race decided by 3,700 votes. There are 13 higher-ed institutions in the district. The population is more than 90% White and just 2% foreign-born, which correlates with higher turnout.
  7. Illinois 6th (West Chicago-Naperville) – An affluent district whose residents have median household earnings of nearly $100,000 and fewer than 10% are considered low-income. More than half the overall population has a college degree, and 57% are married. Young people make up 14% of the district’s citizens. There is an open primary this March, and Politico calls the district one of 10 House races to watch in 2018 after incumbent Republican Peter Roskam won handily in 2016 even as Trump lost the district by 7 points.
  8. Nebraska 2nd (Omaha) – A perennial swing district that has been decided by less than 4% in all three congressional elections since 2012, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has set its sights on unseating Republican Don Bacon. A hundred thousand young people live in the Nebraska 2nd, making up over 16% of the district’s population. Nearly 40% of the district population is enrolled in one of its 10 higher education institutions.
  9. Minnesota 2nd (Southern part of Twin Cities) – This district was #5 in our 2016 YESI rankings, and Republican Jason Lewis edged out his opponent by less than 3% in that congressional election. It includes parts of Rice County, one of the pivot counties in the 2016 race. The district has seen relatively high youth turnout in recent midterms: 23% of youth voted in 2014, 17th best in the country. Its residents are fairly well-off, with a median income of over $80,000, and more than 80% of district citizens are White.
  10. California 39th (East L.A.-Orange County-San Bernardino) – More than 110,000 young people live in this southern California district. They make up close to 18% of the population—the highest proportion for any district in our top-10. While much more racially diverse than other high-ranking districts, it has other attributes related to strong electoral significance, like a median household income of $85,000. Longtime Republican congressman Edward Royce’s retirement after holding the seat for 26 years has set the stage for a highly competitive race in 2018.

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