The results are in: Young people still aren’t voting in Philadelphia.
Despite a booming millennial population, only 12 percent of registered millennials — 38,686 people — turned out to vote in the May mayoral election. To describe this another way, according to the office of City Commissioner Al Schmidt, millennials make up about 32 percent of the total electorate but only 14 percent of people who actually voted.
Or even another way: Registered millennials (age 18-to-34) make up the largest group by far of registered voters. There are 71,000 more registered millennials than people age 35-to-49, 82,000 more than people age 50-to-64 and 140,000 more than people age 65 and up. And yet those respective age groups beat the millennials in voter turnout by about 20,000, 53,000 and 42,000. That’s not good at all. It almost seems impossible.
Is there any reason to be optimistic? Maybe just slightly.
The City Commissioners office didn’t have age group breakdowns for the 2007 mayoral primary election when Billy Penn asked for the data earlier this year so we can’t compare this primary election to the last primary without an incumbent. But we can compare it to the 2011 primary.
Then, about 17,000 millennials voted, representing about 10 percent of the voting electorate. With 38,000 voting this time and about 14 percent of the voting electorate that’s at least an improvement from the last mayor’s race.
Still, the number of 38,000 is about half as much as the number of 18-to-34 year olds who voted in the 2014 gubernatorial/mid-term congressional general election (74,000). That turnout rate for millennials in fall 2014 was about 23 percent.
Philadelphia is no different than anywhere else when it comes to local politics. The Knight Foundation recently released a report on the low voter turnout for local elections among millennials. It found that people in general didn’t care to vote in local elections, with millennials being even worse. Knight didn’t have an exact number but suggested it is less than 20 percent.
The reasons? Millennial respondents told Knight they didn’t think there was enough coverage of local politics and they didn’t understand how local government worked. They also wanted more aspirational messages, framing voting as a way to improve their cities, to push them to vote.
Either way, maybe we should’ve seen this low voter turnout coming.