Voting Illinois, 2022 election: Chicago research explores what issues matter most to young voters

CHICAGO (WLS) — Millennials are the largest generation, according to Pew Research.

This means their voting power is strong.

What issues are important to this group of young adults? And what gets them to the polls?

A local organization believes the key is to make politics both informative and fun.

In past midterm elections, young voters in Chicago had a low turn-out.

Now, organizations like Chicago Votes are working to fix that.

“Chicago Votes is a nonpartisan nonprofit. We work to engage young people from marginalized communities,” said Stevie Valles with Chicago Votes. “We can hold this like civic and political dialogue in a way that’s not so tense.”

Reasons behind low youth voter participation can differ.

“And one thing that we find consistently is that there are lots of good reasons for young adults to feel skepticism and distrust about politics,” said Kumar Ramanathan, a GENForward Research Fellow at the University of Chicago. “We should validate the distrust that young adults are feeling about a political system that is often not responsive to their needs.”

GENForward Research focuses on “young voter” trends across the nation.

ILLINOIS GENERAL ELECTION | Meet the candidates for governor, U.S. Senate, Congress

GENForward defines “young adults” as Gen Z, ages 18-25, and millennials, ages 26 to 41.

Results from the project show important midterm issues for youth differ from older generations when looking at likely voters.

For Gen Z, the top two concerns are abortion/reproductive rights and gun violence.

2022 ELECTION | Voter Information in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin

For Millennials, it’s inflation and abortion/reproductive rights.

For Gen X, it’s inflation and abortion/reproductive rights.

“It’s clear that young adults have particular experiences that make those issues matter more – for example with gun violence,” Ramanathan said. “Other issues for example are student loans. Young adults have more exposure to information about climate change.”

But, a lack of participation at the polls doesn’t necessarily translate to apathy.

“Many young adults are engaging in politics in different ways. They’re talking about it with family and friends on social media, they’re engaging in different kinds of activities, protests, boycotts,” Ramanathan said.

But, there may be a shift happening in Chicago.

“In the 2018 election, and in the 2020 election, young people between 17 and 35 actually were the biggest voting bloc in the city,” Valles said.

Organizations like “Chicago Votes” are hoping for a repeat.

“Voting in these elections is extremely important because, you know, like, these are the people who really do have power over your lived experience as a citizen in Chicago,” Valles said.

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