Millennials eclipse Boomers as potential voters, but not everywhere

Note: Since the publication of this blog, we have re-released the Representing US tools with more recent data and some new offerings. The original Representing US “Demographics Tool” referenced in this blog (with generational aggregations) can still be found in our Tableau Public gallery (external website).

Although Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers as potential voters nationally, they are geographically concentrated in cities. Fewer than half of them voted in the 2016 election. Photo by Josh Wilburne on Unsplash

Although Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers as potential voters nationally, they are geographically concentrated in cities. Fewer than half of them voted in the 2016 election. Photo by Josh Wilburne on Unsplash


By Andi Egbert, Sr. Research Associate

Millennials eclipse Boomers as potential voters, but not everywhere

Which generation will influence the vote and where?

In The Who’s classic song, “My Generation,” Roger Daltrey wails, “I hope I die before I get old.” Personally, I hope GenXers, Millennials, and even the emergent Generation Z will vote before they get old.

This year is projected to be the first that there are more eligible voters who are Millennials than Baby Boomers among the U.S. electorate. However, youth is wasted on the young, and for many, so is the right to vote.

In November 2016, Americans age 65-74 were most likely to cast a ballot, with 73 percent doing so, and those slightly older or younger were not far behind. But voting rates fell to 60 percent for the 35-44 crowd and further south from there. Slightly more Millennials voted in 2016 than in 2012, but still fewer than half. Millennial voters could shake up the composition of the next congress, if they choose to. Indeed, Millennial candidates have already won several congressional primaries this year.

Our new nonpartisan Representing US project reveals where each generation’s influence is greatest, assuming they vote. Although Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers as potential voters nationally, they are geographically concentrated in cities. Millennials are the predominant generation of voting age in only 86 congressional districts. Potential Boomer voters are the most common generation in the vast majority of districts (341). Some districts are heavily populated by the reliable voters of the Silent and Greatest generations that came before them. A few districts are dominated by GenXers, and the post-Millennial GenZ is an emerging force.

Four in 10 potential voters in Massachusetts' 7th congressional district, which encircles Boston, are Millennials, the highest percentage of all 435 U.S. House districts. New York’s 12th and 7th districts, also shown in the darkest areas of the map, are Millennial-dense too at 39 and 36 percent, respectively.

Four in 10 potential voters in Massachusetts' 7th congressional district, which encircles Boston, are Millennials, the highest percentage of all 435 U.S. House districts. New York’s 12th and 7th districts, also shown in the darkest areas of the map, are Millennial-dense too at 39 and 36 percent, respectively.

At shown in the map above, Millennials account for a record 4 in 10 residents of voting age in Massachusetts’ 7th District (Boston) with just slightly fewer Millennials congregating in New York’s 12th District (east side of Manhattan and into Queens and Brooklyn) and Illinois 5th district (parts of Chicago). But in one Florida district (the 11th, home to The Villages’ sizeable senior community), Millennials don’t even crack 15 percent of the voting-age population, while voters from the Silent or Greatest generation are twice as common!

Baby Boomers will still wield a powerful amount of influence in the fall elections. In no congressional district do they represent less than 22 percent of the voting-age population. And on the high end, they represent 37 percent of would-be voters in three House districts: Michigan’s 1st (the Upper Peninsula and northern third of the state), Wisconsin’s 7th (north and central areas of the state), and Maine’s 2nd (covering most of the state’s land area, north of the Portland and Augusta metros). 

At 31 percent of the voting-age population, there are more Generation X voters in Georgia's 7th congressional district (northeastern suburbs of Atlanta) and Texas' 3rd congressional district (northeastern suburbs of Dallas) than any other district.

At 31 percent of the voting-age population, there are more Generation X voters in Georgia's 7th congressional district (northeastern suburbs of Atlanta) and Texas' 3rd congressional district (northeastern suburbs of Dallas) than any other district.

A word to my fellow GenXers: Often overlooked due to our somewhat smaller size—Pew once aptly called us “America’s neglected middle child”—GenX nonetheless flexes its power in 118 congressional districts where it represents a quarter or more of voting-age population. Evidently Georgia, Texas and Virginia are GenX hotspots: these three states are home to the top nine districts with the greatest GenX presence, at 3 in 10 potential voters or more. If you want to reminisce about the original Nintendo, big bangs, and why you’re the last generation that understands why the Microsoft “Save” icon looks the way it does, we’ve found where your people are!

Retirement destination Florida (and to a lesser degree Arizona) holds a similar distinction for being home to numerous districts with concentrations of Silent and Greatest Generation voters, those age 72 or above in 2018. Nationwide, this age group comprises about 13% of potential voters, but in Florida’s 11th, 17th and 19th, it is roughly double that percentage or more. 

In Florida's 11th congressional district, a nation-leading 30 percent of the voting-age population is age 72 or older.

In Florida's 11th congressional district, a nation-leading 30 percent of the voting-age population is age 72 or older.

Our Representing US Demographics Tool also allows us to see the size of the emerging Generation Z. Its oldest members are age 18-21 this year and number 17.3 million potential voters nationwide already. Utah’s 3rd Congressional District (in southeastern Utah, including Orem and Provo) has the nation’s highest percent of potential GenZ voters, at 1 in 10. The higher mobility that characterizes the college-age years makes it more challenging to know where these voters will cast their ballot, but along with Utah’s 3rd, places like California’s 21st and 41st, Georgia’s 10th, and Texas’ 33rd are good bets for where GenZ is most likely to have its voice heard.

What might the 2018 elections see for turnout? Only 2 in 5 eligible voters typically turn out to midterms, compared to 3 in 5 in Presidential years. But this year could be different. The Republicans presently hold a 43-vote advantage in the House (with six additional seats vacant), but the Democrats could be within striking distance of a majority. A bevy of highly motivating issues including gun rights/gun control and immigration policy could swell turnout.

The size of each generation of voting age matters, but only insofar as those who can vote, do. Exercise your right to vote if you can, but not before checking out the generational and other data in our Representing US tools. They’re chock full of insights for candidates polishing their stump speeches. And for all of us trying to choose among them. 

 -Andi (@DataANDInfo


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Andi Egbert