Youth Civic Engagement in Detroit

As the 2020 campaigns are underway, the Census is counting populations across the country, and racial justice awareness and action increases locally and nationally, the impact of youth voices on the future has become more powerful over time. In Detroit, youth were driving forces in the June Black Lives Matters protests. By digging into the state’s Qualified Voter File, we were able to examine at the zip code level, where 18-24 year olds were most likely to be registered voters, as well as where the most active young adults are voting. 

In discussing voter registration and activity, we use these two definitions: 

  • Registered voters are defined as anyone who had registered by the end of 2018. 
  • Active voters are defined as being: a registered voter by the end of 2018 and voted in at least one of six elections between November 2018 and May 2020.

While 18-24 year olds represent about 11% of the total city’s population, they comprise only 8% of registered voters and 6% of active voters in the city. Young adults are less likely to be registered and less likely to have voted in one of the six elections compared to the overall eligible Detroit population.

Understanding these trends at the zipcode-level can help community organizations focus on activating young adults towards civic engagement in the form of voting. Communities with a high rate of active voters could also consider how to engage these young voters into helping  encourage/promote Census 2020 participation as efforts continue towards a complete count in Detroit.

The population of 18-24 year olds in Detroit’s zip codes range from over 5,000 young adults (48288) to just 500 (48216). This map shows the percentage of 18-24 year olds in each zip code that are registered to vote in each zip code.

Percentage of Youth Registered to Vote - Detroit Map

Zip codes with over 4,000 young adults are outlined and cross-hatched in orange. Youth voter registration ranges from a high of 71.2% in 48205 to a low of 16.8% in 48226. 15 out of 25 zip codes have over 50% of their total youth (18-24 year olds) registered to vote. Out of the high-youth population zip codes, only 48221 falls below 50% with its registration rates. These numbers highlight an increased need to push youth voter registration across the city and offers a few zip codes where efforts might have a larger impact due to a higher concentration of young potential voters.

While registration is important, it is not indicative of voter participation. Only about a quarter of 18-24 year olds in Detroit participated in one of the last six elections (excluding the August 2020 primary). This amounts to about half of registered 18-25 year olds, indicating that there is another layer to promoting civic engagement in terms of educating on the importance of smaller local elections and sustained voter engagement. This map shows the percentage of active youth voters among registered youth.

Percentage of Youth Active Voters - Detroit Map

At the zip code level, active youth voter participation ranges from 62.6% in 48216 to 41.8% in 48205. Interestingly, while 48205 has the highest rate of registered youth, it has the lowest rate of active youth. This highlights a common theme of lower active voter participation; most of the high-youth population zip codes have less than 50% active participation. Only 48221 falls into the top ranks of active youth voter participation for zip codes with a high population of youth. 

Given Michigan’s new automatic voter registration, initiatives engaging 18-24 year olds will probably see a natural transition to voter activation versus registration. However, this data highlights the need for a focus on voter activation in the city for young people. 

Beyond voting, these maps highlight areas that might particularly benefit from heavier Census outreach in the last month of enumeration. With Detroit’s Census participation rate hovering just over 50%, it’s important to note that young, mobile adults are likely to remain uncounted. Layer that onto the other factors such as homelessness, racial and ethnic minorities, and more, it’s important to ensure that community organizations are reaching out specifically to young adults to encourage their civic participation. Our Census map has real-time response rates at the tract-level with community development and grassroots organization boundaries, neighborhood boundaries, internet connectivity rates, and more for the City of Detroit. This map can help organizations strategically identify communities that could benefit from an increase in census engagement.

US Census Easy to Miss Populations

D3 has provided many organizations with materials to support a complete count in Michigan and can help support organizations working to promote wider civic engagement initiatives with more granular data for their neighborhoods of interest, both in Detroit and across the state. We invite you to reach out to to tell us how we can help support you.