U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Skip Header

Young Voters Only Age Group on the Rise in 2016

Written by:

In a reversal from recent elections, voter turnout increased for the non-Hispanic white population but dropped for the non-Hispanic black population in the 2016 presidential election.

According to the latest voting and registration data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, voter turnout for the non-Hispanic black population dropped from 66.6 percent in 2012-- when their voting was higher than the non-Hispanic white population for the first time in this data series -- to 59.6 percent in 2016.

Decline Voting

Voter turnout for the non-Hispanic white population rose from 64.1 percent to 65.3 percent.

“In 2016, we see evidence that the 2008 and 2012 elections may have been exceptions to normal turnout patterns," said Thom File, a Voting and Registration expert with the U.S. Census Bureau. "Last November the black voting rate actually decreased by about 7 percentage points which is a rather dramatic drop off. Meanwhile turnout for non-Hispanic whites actually increased by about a percentage point, so the 2016 election definitely looked different from 2008 and 2012 in terms of race and turnout.”

Young voters were the only age group to show increased turnout between 2012 (45 percent) and 2016 (46.1 percent). All older age groups reported either small, yet statistically significant turnout decreases, or no meaningful change.

“In general older Americans vote at higher rates than younger Americans and in 2016, this was once again the case," File said. "The older the group the higher the voting rate, with the highest being about 71 percent for those 65 and older."

Even though young people reported the lowest overall turnout of any age group, 18- to 29-year olds were the only group to see their turnout increase relative to 2012.

"Here, turnout increased by about a percentage point for this youngest age group, whereas older age groups had rates either slightly lower or the same as in 2012," File said.

Increase Voting

These data come from the Voting and Registration Supplement to the Current Population Survey for the November 2016 election, which has surveyed the civilian non-institutionalized population in the United States since 1964.

It is the most comprehensive data source available on the social and demographic composition of the electorate in federal elections. The package of tables provides data with a focus on patterns of voter turnout by race, Hispanic origin, age and other demographic characteristics such as educational attainment and family income. By examining these characteristics and how they have changed over the years, these statistics provide a better understanding of the social and demographic factors that have influenced recent American elections.

Among the highlights:

  • In 2016, 61.4 percent of the citizen voting-age population reported voting, a number not statistically different from the 61.8 percent who reported voting in 2012.
  • For only the second time since 1980, the percentage of voters in 2016 who were non-Hispanic white (73.3 percent) was not lower than in the previous presidential election. Additionally, 2016 was only the second election in this series where the share of voters who were non-Hispanic black did not increase, but actually decreased, from 12.9 percent in 2012 to 11.9 percent in 2016.
  • When analyzed together, reported turnout by age, race and Hispanic-origin differed in 2016 as well. In comparison to 2012, the younger non-Hispanic white population between the ages of 18 to 29 and between the ages of 30 to 44 reported higher turnout in 2016. Meanwhile, for the non-Hispanic black population, turnout rates decreased in 2016 for every age group. For other race non-Hispanic and Hispanic populations of any race, voting rates between 2012 and 2016 were not statistically different for any age groups.

This story was filed under:

Page Last Revised - December 16, 2021
Is this page helpful?
Thumbs Up Image Yes Thumbs Down Image No
255 characters maximum 255 characters maximum reached
Thank you for your feedback.
Comments or suggestions?


Back to Header