'We have to increase turnout': Only 42% of young people in CA voted in 2016 presidential election, ABC7 analysis shows

ByStephanie Sierra, Lindsey Feingold, and Grace Manthey KGO logo
Friday, October 23, 2020
Analysis: Only 42% of young people in CA voted in 2016 election
Most eligible young voters in the U.S. don't cast their ballot, especially in California, where only 42 percent voted in the 2016 presidential election.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Most eligible young voters across the U.S. don't cast their ballot, especially in California.

ABC7's analysis of voter registration data shows only 42 percent of young voters ages 18 to 24 cast their vote in the 2016 presidential election.

That's slightly below the national average for that age group. It was even worse at 41 percent in 2012.

RELATED: California Election 2020: Everything to know about propositions, mail-in ballot vs. in-person voting, key dates and deadlines

High school senior Emmanuel Ching is anxious for the 2020 election.

"We have so much that we are deciding right now," said Ching. "The policy choices that are being made now don't just affect us for the next four years, but they affect us for the next four generations."

Ching, age 17, is a model example of a dedicated young voter. He's already preregistered to vote and encouraging his friends to get to the polls.

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"This isn't a joke, we have to increase turnout," he said. "The problem is a lot of people feel like these elections don't necessarily affect them."

According to our analysis, the main reasons eligible young voters didn't vote in the 2016 election was because they didn't like the candidate, were too busy, out of town, or felt their vote didn't matter.

VIDEO: Californians' guide to casting your ballot this November

When it comes to casting your ballot, some things are different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Here's what you need to know.

It's not surprising to Democrat Priscilla Jin, a 20-year-old college student studying political science at Pomona.

"A lot of people feel their vote doesn't count or it won't make a difference or that they were just never educated super well about the importance of the vote," she said.

Jin explained some classmates won't vote as a form of protest to the electoral college system.

"We have to hammer in that this is a privilege that we get to have such a voice in our own governments and it's not something that happens in every single country," said Jin.

ABC7's analysis found young voters in California were 26 percent less likely to vote in the 2016 presidential election compared to all other age groups.

RELATED: San Francisco resident spells 'VOTE 2020' on marathon run

Nicole Garay, a volunteer with the San Francisco Republican Party, expects it could be worse this year as voter registration booths aren't present on college campuses.

"I think given the circumstances with the pandemic and not having those booths, young voters are missing out, specifically that age demographic are missing out on resources," said Garay.

Yet, young voters like Ching aren't losing hope.

"We are trying to get as many young voters as we can to the polls," he said. "It could be one of the most important elections of our lifetime."

Get the latest stories and videos about the 2020 election here.