MIAMI (CBSMiami) — In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and the subsequent March for Our Lives movement, there has been renewed attention on whether young people would turn out to vote this year.
Billionaire Tom Steyer, through his organization NextGen America, has pumped tens of millions of dollars into eleven key states, including Florida, to register and then encourage young people to vote.
And a state Supreme Court decision in Florida this summer granted election supervisors the right to open early voting sites on college campuses.
But are young people actually voting?
Professor Daniel Smith, chair of the political science department at the University of Florida, says young voting is up from previous elections.
This year, 220,000 more 18 to 29-year-olds have voted, than that age group did in the last midterm election in 2014.
And compared to 2016, there are 345,000 more 18 to 29-year-olds who have voted in advance of Election Day, according to Smith, who publishes the website ElectionSmith.com
Despite the increased numbers, young people are still underperforming.
Heading into Election Day, 18 to 24-year-olds represent 8.9 percent of all registered voters but they so far only account for 4.2 percent of votes cast this year, according to an analysis conducted for CBS Miami by Democratic strategist Steve Schale. (Schale has his own website analyzing election numbers SteveSchale.com)
When the age group is broadened to 18 to 34-year-olds, the numbers are slightly worse. They represent 26 percent of all registered voters but only 12.2 percent of actual voters.
While younger voters are underperforming, older voters – especially those 65 years and older – continue to over perform.
“There are a lot of things that are encouraging,” Schale told CBSMiami. “When you look at the universe of people who are first time midterm voters, there is evidence of young people being engaged.”
According to Schale, younger voters who ignored the previous midterm election, are showing up for this year’s contests.
Of the approximately 300,000 18 to 24 year olds who were eligible to vote in 2014 but didn’t, slightly more than 43,000 of them have voted this year.
And among the 1.3 million 18 to 34 year olds who were registered in 2014 but opted not to vote, just under 170,000 of them have cast ballots.
All of these numbers will change based on the turnout among younger voters on Election Day.
Also, when it comes to the so-called “Parkland Effect,” as some have dubbed it, the number of votes cast by young people is only part of the story.
It may very well turn out that their greatest impact in this election will be in keeping the issue of guns at the forefront of nearly every campaign for state and federal office in Florida, especially the congressional races.
“They have changed the conversation this year,” Schale said. “You are seeing more and more young people taking ownership of this moment.”
Democrats are hoping the issue of gun reform following so many tragedies here in Florida – from the Pulse nightclub massacre, to the Stoneman Douglas shooting, to recent shootings in Jacksonville and Tallahassee – will cause college educated white women, who voted for Donald Trump and the Republicans in 2016, to break toward Democratic candidates in 2018.
“For the first time in my lifetime guns on the left are a significant voting issue,” Schale said. “I can’t remember an election before this where Democrats are openly talking about guns.”