There are over seven million young Americans aged between 18 to 29 years who have already cast their ballots, including over four million in 14 key American states that are likely to decide the presidency. This is according to data published by the Centre for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University, over the weekend. It has been predicted that voters under 30 could break their historic 2008 record of 48.4 per cent, when Barack Obama was elected as the US’ first African-American president. The centre says in 13 states the youth share of the early vote is already higher than it was as of this point in 2016. The numbers are especially dramatic in a state like Texas, where more than 1 million young people have already cast ballots, nearly approaching the 1.2 million total votes cast by youth (both early and on Election Day) in 2016. States with the highest percentage of young voters who could make a substantial difference are Wisconsin, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Arizona, according to CIRCLE data. Early voting among young voters has also surged past 2016 numbers in key swing states that are critical for US President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger Joe Biden. These include Florida, North Carolina, Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Before Election Day, in Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, and Montana, young people have already cast at least half as many votes as they did total votes in the last presidential election. Another poll conducted by the Institute of Politics at the Harvard Kennedy School recently found that 63 per cent young voters said they will “definitely be voting” this year. In 2016, just 47 per cent had said they would. Youth represent half US population As of July, there were 166 million young Americans representing 50.7 per cent of the total US population, according to Brookings Institute, a reputable American think tank. In 2016, young voters made up just 15.7 per cent of the total electorate. They comprised 15.4 per cent in 2012, 17.1 per cent in 2008 and 16 per cent in 2004. In the 2018 midterm US elections, young women had a higher voter turnout than young men and were more likely to vote for Democratic candidates. Despite the encouraging trend this year, the turnout of young voters in each presidential election has been below 50 per cent. Years when young voter turnout had peaked in the past are 1972 (55.4 per cent) when the US had lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 years; and in 2008, (48.4 per cent) when Obama was elected. In the last presidential election, however, fewer than half of young voters who were eligible actually cast their ballot. “It’s worth mentioning that older Americans — baby boomers, silent generation — usually those turnout rates are 60 per cent or 70 per cent. So, it’s a good 20 percentage points higher than young adults,” Elizabeth Matto, associate research professor at the Center for Youth Political Participation in Rutgers University, said at a press briefing last week. That is because young voters are usually unfamiliar with voting practices, especially mail-in voting and haven’t received the same civic education that previous generations did, Matto explained. “The other real challenge is college students…[are currently] learning remotely. So, that means that we [colleges] can’t reach out to them directly. We can’t have voter registration drives on campus,” she added. Two decades ago, the number of young voters supporting Republicans or Democrats was fairly equal. However, in the last three elections — 2004, 2006, and 2008 — they had tremendously favoured the Democratic candidate. Young voters supported Hillary Clinton over Trump (55 per cent vs. 37 per cent) in 2016. While 13 million had voted for the former and nine million for the latter, about two million young people voted for third-party candidates. There was, however, a drop in youth support between 2012 and 2016 for the Democratic candidate. Obama secured 60 per cent of the youth vote in 2012, while Clinton secured 55 per cent in 2016. That is likely to change this year. A recent Harvard Youth Poll, a bi-annual poll of Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics, found that Biden’s favourability among likely young voters had jumped from 34 per cent to 56 per cent since March.