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  • REAL Strategies

Understanding Younger Voters in Big Cities

Younger voters have been making waves in recent rent control referendums, often tipping the scales in favor of rent control laws. To better understand this influential group, the National Apartment Association (NAA) teamed up with REAL Strategies to dive deep into the political attitudes and demographics of younger urban voters. Their goal? To craft communication strategies that resonate with these voters in both electoral and advocacy campaigns.


Why Focus on Younger Voters? 

Younger voters are a significant portion of the rental market in big cities. They are not only numerous but also diverse and engaged in social and political issues. By understanding their views, we can better engage them on critical issues like housing affordability and rent control. Engaging younger voters effectively can make a substantial difference in the success of policy initiatives and advocacy efforts.


Our Research Approach 

With the help of the HAP Program, we conducted comprehensive polls targeting younger voters in four major cities: Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Las Vegas. Chicago received extra attention, with additional interviews conducted to provide a citywide sample. This control group allowed us to compare attitudes between older and younger urban voters, offering valuable insights into generational differences regarding rent control and housing policies.


What Did We Discover?


  1. Rent Control Sentiment: Younger voters generally support rent control, but their perspectives are nuanced. They are open to market-driven solutions and innovative policies that promise to improve affordability without the drawbacks of traditional rent control measures.

  2. Distrust in Local Government: Only 30% of younger voters trust their city government. This distrust can be leveraged in communication strategies to build rapport by addressing their concerns and offering solutions that bypass bureaucratic inefficiencies.

  3. Market-Driven Solutions: Interestingly, 55% of younger voters believe that rents should be determined by the free market rather than government intervention. This indicates a potential to gain their support for market-based alternatives to rent control, such as incentivizing the construction of affordable housing.

  4. Affordability is Key: Affordability is a top priority for 75% of younger voters when it comes to housing policies. Emphasizing the failures of rent control in other cities and promoting effective alternatives can resonate well with this group.


Poll Highlights


  • Zoning Laws: 67% support changing zoning laws to allow more apartment complexes, highlighting a demand for increased housing supply.

  • Housing Affordability: 81% of younger voters see housing affordability as a major issue, underscoring the urgency of addressing this concern in policy discussions.

  • Housing Vouchers: 89% back housing vouchers and Section 8 programs, indicating strong support for measures that directly aid renters.


Who Are These Younger Voters?


  • Diverse and Educated: This group is quite diverse, with 44% identifying as white. Moreover, 78% have some college education, making them one of the more educated demographics.

  • Politically Progressive: 57% identify as progressive, and 73% lean Democratic, showing a tendency towards policies that support social equity and justice.

  • Financial Concerns: Housing costs are a significant burden, with 71% stating that housing expenses strain their budgets.

  • Demand for Action: A substantial 89% want their city government to prioritize housing availability, reflecting their urgent need for affordable living options.


How They Get Their News


  • TV vs. Social Media: Only 12% of younger voters watch local news on TV, compared to 47% of those aged 40 and older. Instead, 30% of younger voters get their news from social media platforms, which is a stark contrast to the 7% of older residents. This shift in media consumption habits highlights the importance of digital and social media strategies in reaching younger audiences.


Key Takeaway 

Both younger and older voters in Chicago agree that housing affordability is a big problem. However, their media consumption habits differ greatly. For campaigns targeting younger voters, it’s crucial to meet them where they are—on social media platforms. Engaging content that resonates with their values and addresses their concerns about housing affordability can significantly enhance campaign effectiveness.

By understanding and addressing the unique perspectives and concerns of younger urban voters, we can craft more effective communication strategies that resonate with this vital demographic. Tailoring messages to their preferred media channels and emphasizing solutions that align with their values will be key in gaining their support for housing policies and initiatives.


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