Young voters in U.S. and Oklahoma less likely to vote in 2024 or pick a political side

By: - September 25, 2023 5:29 am

Registering as an independent is the second most popular party affiliation among Oklahoma voters age 18-24. Only 20% of all voters in this age group participated in the 2022 Oklahoma general election. (Getty Images) (This image cannot be republished without a Getty subscription)

OKLAHOMA CITY — National polling and Oklahoma-specific data indicate young voters are more politically disengaged than older generations but also might be less polarized.

About a third of young adults don’t intend to vote or participate civically in the 2024 elections, and 61% said they don’t align with either major political party, national polling of Americans age 18-24 found.

The civic-focused Institute for Citizens & Scholars surveyed more than 4,000 young adults in August. Results showed young adults are more willing to have conversations with people of different views and identified themselves at or near the ideological center, creating optimism that Generation Z could help tackle polarization, the institute reported.

In Oklahoma, registering as an independent voter is a popular option among young people sick of partisanship, said Andy Moore, CEO and founder of the local civic engagement nonprofit Let’s Fix This. 

Independent is the second most common party affiliation for registered Oklahoma voters age 18-24, state Election Board data shows. Only the Republican party has more registered voters from this age group.

There are over 16,000 fewer registered Democrats aged 24 or younger than independents in the state.

Independent voters in Oklahoma can participate in Democratic primary elections, but they’re barred from casting ballots in Republican and Libertarian primaries, which decide several key races in the heavily conservative state. 

Moore said this leaves many young Oklahomans feeling excluded from the political process.

“Then they get frustrated that their choice not to align with a particular party blocks them out of decisions being made,” he said. “They don’t feel welcome and, as a result, don’t participate.”

Only 20% of registered voters aged 18-24 cast ballots in the 2022 general election, which decided Oklahoma’s governor and other statewide races, an Oklahoma Voice analysis found. That’s well below the turnout rate among all registered voters in November 2022, which the state Election Board reported was about 50%.

The national poll also indicates elevated rates of political disengagement among young adults across the country.

It found 48% of respondents intend to vote in the 2024 general election while 33% don’t plan to engage at all.

The share of Generation Z who plans to vote in the 2024 general election was 20% lower than the national average, according to the report.

Most said they don’t identify as either a Republican or a Democrat, and 51% placed themselves at or close to the ideological center, saying they’re either moderate, somewhat conservative or somewhat liberal.

Respondents said they aren’t more involved in politics because they don’t feel informed enough, don’t have enough time or money, or don’t believe their participation matters.

“This poll is a wake-up call,” the institute’s president, Rajiv Vinnakota, said in a statement. “We urgently need to do more to civically prepare, activate, and support young adults.”


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Nuria Martinez-Keel
Nuria Martinez-Keel

Nuria Martinez-Keel covers education for Oklahoma Voice. She worked in newspapers for six years, more than four of which she spent at The Oklahoman covering education and courts. Nuria is an Oklahoma State University graduate.