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Turns out, young voters didn’t sway ‘22 election in Michigan, records show

young people lining up to vote
Although students waited for hours to vote in college towns in Michigan in November, actual turnout among voters 30 and younger fell from 2018. (Bridge file photo)

Data released Tuesday showed that turnout among young voters in Michigan’s 2022 election was well below contests in 2020 and 2018, contradicting widely repeated claims that they helped swing the election.


Overall, total turnout in November was the highest for a midterm election in state history — and everyone from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell cited younger voters as one reason Democrats swept to power in Lansing and voters enshrined abortion access into the state constitution.

Long lines of students waiting to vote at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan seemed to bolster the argument, but voting data released by the Secretary of State on Tuesday show 37.2 percent of the registered voters 30 and younger cast a ballot in November, down from 42.2 percent in 2018.



The biggest drop was among men: In 2018, when legalizing marijuana was on the ballot, 40.1 percent of registered men 18 to 30 cast ballots, compared to 33 percent last fall.

In November, nearly 42 percent of registered women 18 to 30 cast ballots, compared to 44.1 percent of women that age in 2018.

The numbers continue a longstanding trend that, despite numerous outreach efforts at college campuses, young people almost invariably vote in fewer numbers than any other age group.

Matt Grossmann, a political science professor at Michigan State University, said data from other states has shown youth turnout has been below 2018. But he said it’s well above 2010 and 2014.

Grossmann said the gender breakdown in 2022, in which women of most age groups outvoted their male peers, showed how important the abortion issue was for voters.

Research from Tufts University in Massachusetts shows that 54 percent of registered voters ages 18 to 29 — a different age range than Michigan uses — voted in 2020 and 42 percent in 2016.

But within Michigan there were great differences too.

Livingston, Ingham, Ottawa and Oakland counties had over 45 percent turnout among those 18 to 30 and Washtenaw County, home to the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan are, was at 43 percent.

In 27 mostly rural counties, fewer than 30 percent of young voters cast ballots, the data shows.

There is almost always a drop in turnout between presidential election years and gubernatorial ones. But the records released this week show that there was a big dropoff in the percentage of voters from 2018 and much of it gender-based.

In 2018, 46,727 more women, ages 18 to 30, voted in Michigan than did men of the same age. 

In 2022, that gap grew to nearly 66,000 — even though there were 12,000 more registered men ages 18 to 30.


Compare that with 70 percent of those over 60 who voted in November, and 59 percent of those 50 to 59. 

Just 40.5 percent of those 18 to 21 voted and 36.2 percent of those 22 to 30.

However, in an election with the highest overall turnout ever in a gubernatorial election, youth voters did see the biggest increase in voting, compared to other age groups:

  • Nearly 9 percent more voters were ages 18 to 30. The biggest increase was among those 18 to 21, which increased 29 percent.
  • But those increases did not match the huge surge in voter registration among those age groups, which jumped 52 percent for those 18 to 21. And as a share of all voters, those 18 to 30 made up 13.6 percent of all voters, just above the 13.1 percent in 2018. 

Despite having the most voters to ever cast ballots in a gubernatorial election, overall turnout was 54.7 percent, compared to 57.1 percent in 2018.

A total of 4.5 million voters cast ballots in November, including 126,000 more women than in 2018 and 92,000 more men.

— Lauren Gibbons and Yue Stella Yu contributed

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