How 16-year-olds would vote, if they could

The Pew Foundation recently completed a study on the political views of younger teens — ages 13-21 — and, in short, their beliefs are a lot like their older millennial brothers and sisters and not very much like their boomer parents and Silent Generation grandparents. For example, only 30 percent of these younger Generation Zers approve of President Trump’s job performance, compared with 43 percent for boomers and 54 percent for the silents. More striking, perhaps, 70 percent of them believe the government should do more, not less, compared with 49 percent and 39 percent of boomers and silents respectively. They believe blacks are treated unfairly and that gender designations should be handled very differently. Of all age groups, they are the most pessimistic about the direction of the country.

Before you conclude that millennials and Gen Zers will combine to be an influential new voting bloc, however, consider the likelihood that they will not actually turn out to vote. In the 2016 election, for example, only about half of eligible younger voters went to the polls compared with approximately two-thirds of older voters. Proponents of 16-year-old voting argue that, unlike the young adults who move a lot and fail to register, 16- and 17-year-olds are still at home and would be more likely to vote. Teenage stability and civic duty is a tough sell, however, especially with only 23 percent of students scoring as “proficient” or higher on the National Assessment of Educational Progress government tests.