Experts say high number of youth voters affected election results

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- Young voters turned out in higher numbers than traditionally seen for the 2018 election, which experts say could have contributed to the closeness of the governor's race.

"The youth vote was huge in this election," said UW Madison political science professor David Canon. "It both was bigger as a percentage of the electorate up about 1 percent which is not a big difference, but turnout was also much higher as a percentage of the youth vote. Up to about a 46 percent turnout for the youth vote, which was about 9 percent higher than it was in 2014."

Canon said about 60,000 more young people voted in Tuesday's election than in 2014, a notable increase in turnout for a midterm election.

"They typically ignore the elections that are not president, and so that's where you'll see the huge drop off," said Dane County Clerk Scott McDonell of student voters.

However, McDonell said that this year, he saw a significant increase in student voting, even just by looking at the lines at polling places in Dane County.

"From 2014, which was the last time we had a gubernatorial election, to this, it was a 36 percent increase," McDonell said. "They were clearly coming from the dorms. I know that Porchlight, they had 1,000 election day registrations, so those were students moving around. That's got to be the record for the state I'd assume."

Having more voters going to the polls likely affected the governor's race, said Canon.

"The exit poll showed the 18 to 29 year old vote at 60 percent for Evers and 37 percent for Scott Walker," Canon said. "That compares to 2014, 54 percent for Mary Burke and 43 percent for Scott Walker. So a 23 point gap this time around, and an 11 point gap four years ago."

UW Media and Mass Communication professor Mike Wagner said that young people participated in this election in more ways than just voting.

"Lots were just knocking on doors, making phone calls, donating money to candidates, trying to persuade their friends, sharing information on social media," said Wagner. "All these kinds of things matter at the margins, and when you have elections as close as we did in Wisconsin, any one of those things could have been the thing that put one candidate over the top, and did another candidate in."

Wagner also said that UW has played a part in increasing student involvement in politics, registering about 2,000 students to vote this fall.

Canon said that the 18 to 29 year old age group ultimately influenced the results of the election more than he anticipated.

"The youth vote really is a big important explanation of what happened in this election."