While demographic changes unfold slowly, it’s already clear that the 2020 electorate will be unique in several ways. Nonwhites will account for a third of eligible voters – their largest share ever – driven by long-term increases among certain groups, especially Hispanics. At the same time, one-in-ten eligible voters will be members of Generation Z, the Americans who will be between the ages 18 and 23 next year. That will occur as Millennials and all other older generations account for a smaller share of eligible voters than they did in 2016.
In raw numbers, a projected 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote in 2020, compared with 30 million Blacks. The population of Asians eligible to vote will reach an estimated 11 million in 2020, which is more than double the 5 million who were eligible to vote in 2000, accounting for 5% of next year’s electorate.
Pew Research Center projects that the 2020 election will mark the first time that Hispanics will be the largest racial or ethnic minority group in the electorate, accounting for just over 13% of eligible voters. One-in-ten eligible voters in the 2020 election will have been born outside the U.S., the highest share since at least 1970.
Voter turnout will play an important role in determining the relative electoral influence of different racial and ethnic groups. For example, while Hispanics will outnumber Blacks among eligible voters next year, they may not actually cast more ballots than Blacks due to different turnout patterns. In recent presidential elections, Blacks were substantially more likely than Hispanics to vote. Indeed, the number of Hispanic eligible voters who didn’t vote has exceeded the number of those who did vote in every presidential election since 1996.
In 2020, nearly a quarter of the electorate (23%) will be ages 65 and older, the highest such share since at least 1970. Baby Boomers and older generations, who will be ages 56 and older next year, are expected to account for fewer than four-in-ten eligible voters in 2020. This is a significant change from 2000 when nearly seven-in-ten eligible voters (68%) were Boomers, Silents or members of the Greatest Generation (collectively, those ages 36 and older at the time).
The next presidential election will also mark the first time that Millennials (who will be ages 24 to 39 in 2020) will account for a slightly smaller share of the electorate than they represented in the last presidential election. Meanwhile, the leading edge of Generation Z (people ages 18 to 23 in 2020) is projected to comprise one-in-ten eligible voters, up from just 4% in 2016, when the vast majority were too young to cast ballots.
Differences in turnout rates again matter when talking about generations and should be kept in mind as election season gets underway. In 2020, Gen Z eligible voters are expected to be 55% White and 45% Nonwhite, including 21% Hispanic, 14% Black, and 4% Asian or Pacific Islander. By comparison, the Boomer and older electorate are projected to be about three-quarters White (74%).