Election 2020

Texans Under 30 Could Play Key Role In Seven Congressional Races, Researchers Say

Young people have the potential to influence races in seven congressional districts in Texas, according to a new study from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

The United States Capitol, pictured Aug. 3, 2017.

Young people have the potential to influence races in seven congressional districts in Texas, according to a new study from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

Researchers compiled a list of the top 50 U.S. House races where people under 30 have the ability to shape results. The seven races in Texas – Districts 24, 22, 21, 7, 23, 32 and 10 – include three in the Houston area.

In the 10th District, which stretches from Houston to Austin, Democrat Mike Siegel is challenging incumbent Michael McCaul; in the 22nd District, Democrat Sri Preston Kulkarni faces Republican Troy Nehls; and in the 7th District, Democrat Lizzie Fletcher takes on Republican Wesley Hunt.

CIRCLE created the ranking using its "Youth Electoral Significance Index,” which looks at results in past elections, past youth participation, and "contextual factors that research has shown to influence youth turnout," researchers wrote.

Abby Kiesa, director of impact at CIRCLE, said the presence of a large youth population in a district, as well as nonprofits that serve young people, played a role in determining Texas' ranking.

"These seven districts in Texas stood out – yes, because of competitiveness – but some of these districts also have a higher youth population share than other districts," she said. "Nineteen-twenty percent of the eligible population are young people."

Turnout among Texans under 30 has been growing in the past few years. In 2018, turnout among those voters tripled compared to the previous midterm election. Kristian Lundberg, an associate researcher at CIRCLE, said those voters had an effect on elections.

"What we saw in 2018 was that young people of color in Texas – particularly Hispanic youth in Texas – were huge drivers of this increase in turnout," he said. "And they helped, for example, the Beto O'Rourke campaign narrow the gap and make that a very close election."

But Kiesa said replicating that turnout depends on whether campaigns and groups reach out to and engage those voters. During the Texas primary earlier this year, she said, there was evidence campaigns largely ignored young people – particularly Latinos under 40.

"There is still more campaign outreach to do, there is still more registration to do," she said. "It takes investment."

Additional reporting by Paul DeBenedetto

Got a tip? Email Ashley Lopez at alopez@kut.org. Follow her on Twitter @AshLopezRadio.

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