A new report from the Public Policy Institute of California describes “missing voters” both in comparing California voter registration to other states and voter turnout problems in midterm elections. Awareness of voter drop off in midterm elections will affect what kinds of initiatives are likely to appear on the 2018 ballot.

The study notes that the voter drop off from presidential elections to midterm elections is historically normal. But the gap in California has been growing.

The PPIC analysis by Eric McGhee concludes that, “the drop in midterm turnout is largely about age.” In other words, younger voters who are eager to express themselves in high profile presidential elections show less desire to vote when there is no presidential contest.

You can go back to long ago political philosophers to understand what that may mean in midterm elections. Often attributed to Winston Churchill, but apparently with roots established by others is the saying: “Anyone who was not a liberal at 20 years of age had no heart, while anyone who was still a liberal at 40 had no head.”

Whatever the exact words, the notion is that the young are more liberal and are assumed to vote that way. If midterm voting drops off because younger voters do not turn out, liberal positions will have a lesser chance of success at the ballot.

Understanding the voting turnout model is sure to influence what kind of initiative measures are pushed for the 2018 ballot. The 2016 ballot contained a slew of measures appealing to progressive tastes: marijuana legalization, gun control, tax increase on smokers, tax extension on the rich, capping the price of drugs, repealing the death penalty.

It’s still early but there is little talk focused on similar ideological measures that would find their way on the 2018 ballot.

On the other hand, the only tax measure under discussion is a repeal of the recent legislatively passed gas tax. Meanwhile, the business community is pondering ballot reforms that cannot pass muster in the Democratically controlled legislature. For instance, after years of being frustrated at the lack of movement in the legislature, the business community has been looking for a solution to the Private Attorney General Act lawsuits. Might an initiative be the answer?

Of the current active measures on the Attorney General’s website only a couple appear to have the financial support to make the ballot. The gas tax measure is one with potential; John Cox’s legislative reform measure is another. While Cox is an announced Republican candidate for governor, his proposal does not fall easily into either a conservative or liberal camp.

As activists and consultants contemplate what voters might be interested in supporting in 2018, the calculation of turnout becomes a major factor of whether or not to move a proposal forward.