Youthquake 2014: How young Americans can make red states go blue

Any seismologist will tell you that even small earthquakes can cause a significant amount of damage. Youthquakes, it turns out, are similar.

A youthquake is what happens in a political race when youth voter turnout — the percentage of eligible voters aged 18-29 — rises. Often, such changes can end up being inconsequential. In solidly blue states, for instance, an increase in young voters is very unlikely to make much of a difference: It will probably just make a Democrat’s margin of victory that much larger. But in every election year there is a number of races where even a modest uptick in youth turnout can determine whether or not a Republican politician is elected.

This year, a handful of young voters in four key states — Kansas, Iowa, Georgia* and Colorado — could hold the key to whether or not the entire Senate becomes majority Republican. (There are currently 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and 2 Independents in the United States Senate.)

Younger Americans are depressingly good at disenfranchising themselves. They generally vote in much lower numbers than their older (and more politically conservative) counterparts — and that, in turn, gives something of an unfair advantage to the Republican Party.

Take Kansas, for instance. Four years ago, just 22.6% of 18-29 year-olds voted in its Senate race, compared to 60.4% of eligible voters age 30 or above. This year, the Kansas Senate race is neck-and-neck, which means that if that 22.6% figure rises by just a tiny amount — say, to a still very modest 25% —a key Republican could be kept out of Congress for the next six years.

Here, then, is Fusion’s interactive Youthquake tool, focusing on four of the closest Senate races of 2014. The default settings for each state are taken from the 2010 midterm election results, which are then tweaked a little to bring them in line with the latest polling (as measured by

Once you start moving the tool’s sliders around, especially the slider denoting the percentage of 18-29 year-olds who actually vote, you’ll find that a relatively small youthquake could easily determine whether it’s the Republicans or the Democrats who form the majority in the Senate for the next two years. So if you’re registered to vote in Kansas, Iowa, Georgia, or Colorado, and if you’re under the age of 30, go out and vote. Your vote, more than just about anybody else’s this election cycle, really counts.

*A note about Georgia: It’s actually a three-way race, and if the victor gets less than 50% of the total vote, it will go to a run-off. So if the race is as close as it looks, we’ll have to wait for the run-off, rather than the election itself, to find out who the final winner is.

Tool researched, developed and created with assistance from Jean-Paul Tremblay, Manuel Canales, Roberto Rodriguez and Kathleen Geier.