Massachusetts Adults Don’t Want 16-Year-Olds Voting, Poll Finds

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About 65 percent of residents in Massachusetts oppose letting 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds vote in federal elections and only 29 percent support it, a newly released poll found.

The vast majority of residents polled said teen-agers at that age aren’t mature enough, don’t know enough, or don’t have enough life experience to vote, according to the Western New England University Polling Institute.

Opposition lessens when it comes to local elections, but a majority still oppose the idea – 52 percent oppose it, according to the poll, which was released Wednesday, May 29.

Liberal Democrats have floated the idea, arguing that kids that age are affected by public policy and ought to have a say in who makes it.

Opponents have argued that minors aren’t equipped to make important decisions for society and that Democrats are just looking for more voters, since young people skew left of center.

In March, the Democrat-led U.S. House of Representatives rejected an amendment from U.S. Representative Ayanna Pressley (D-Dorchester) attempting to extend voting rights to 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds in federal elections.

The poll was based on a telephone survey of 495 adults between April 9 and 27, or in the weeks following Pressley’s proposal. The standard was residents, not voters – voters as a bloc tend to be less liberal than residents at large.

The same poll found strong support for students walking out of class to protest against climate change (69 percent) and for high school requiring community service from students (77 percent), but voting is a no-go for the respondents.

“The survey results indicate that adults, by large margins, endorse some forms of civic engagement involving teens. Adults back student protests about climate change and they support community service requirements for graduation. But they draw the line at extending the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds as part of young people’s participation in civic life,” said Tim Vercellotti, director of the Western New England University Polling Institute and a political science professor at the school, in a written statement.

People 65 and older were more likely to be against allowing minors to vote (74 percent) than people 18 to 39 (53 percent).

The higher the educational attainment, the more likely people were to oppose letting minors vote in federal elections. Those with a high school diploma or less oppose the idea 54 to 46 percent, while college graduates oppose it 64 to 28 percent, according to the poll.

Democrats tended to be less opposed than Republicans.

For federal elections, Republicans opposed the idea 89 to 11 percent, according to the poll.

For local elections, a majority of Democrats actually supported allowing 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds to vote – 55 percent. But a high enough percentage of Republicans and unenrolled voters oppose it to account for a majority of all respondents being opposed.

Several bills have been filed in the state Legislature seeking to lower the voting age to 16 in Massachusetts local elections. They include Massachusetts Senate Bill 409, Massachusetts House Bill 657, Massachusetts House Bill 662, and Massachusetts House Bill 720.