Analyst: Surge in Younger Voters Failed to Materialize in California Primary

'I Voted' stickers wait for voters at a polling place at 36 Hoff St. in San Francisco's Mission District. (Katie Brigham/KQED)

Turnout for the California primary, which some expected to be pumped up by a surge in registrations among younger voters, fell short of analysts' expectations. One major factor in that lower-than-anticipated turnout: For the most part, an analysis of vote-by-mail ballots suggests, those younger voters simply didn't participate.

Paul Mitchell, vice president of Sacramento-based Political Data Inc., noted Wednesday that people under 35 made up more than half of 2.3 million new voters who registered before the primary, indicating an enthusiasm for the contest. And he says those younger voters told pollsters they would cast ballots.

"But then when they got the ballot with the 34 candidates for Senate, and who’s my congressman, and what’s this ballot proposition, and where do I keep a stamp and all these things ... they kind of fell off and they didn’t participate in the same numbers," Mitchell said.

According to Political Data's analysis of about 3.1 million ballots returned to county registrars before Tuesday's vote, voters under 35 made up just 10 percent of those who voted. That group makes up 25 percent of the state's 17.9 million registered voters.

Sponsored

In contrast, 68 percent of ballots returned came from voters over 55, who make up 41 percent of registered voters.

"The early vote looked a lot like any traditional primary electorate if you just take away that whole surge of registration," he said. He added that when the vote count is complete, total turnout statewide could range from 40 to 45 percent.

The analysis also suggests a lack of enthusiasm among Republican voters. Secretary of State data show Donald Trump winning the GOP primary with about 75 percent of the vote. However, Mitchell says that is less than past presidential candidates who ran virtually unopposed.

"Traditionally, a Republican unopposed like this would be getting 83 percent of the vote," he said.

Mitchell said with no GOP candidate in the state's U.S. Senate race and a potentially polarizing presidential campaign that could drive more minority voters to the polls, the November general election could be a tough one for California Republicans.