By Cheyanne Fullen
Historically, the turnout of young voters, which refers to those aged 18-24, has been persistently lower than other age groups. However, census data confirmed a significant increase in youth voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election, in which Barack Obama appealed to not only the minority demographic, but younger voters as well. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, “nearly two million more young Americans under the age of 30 voted in the 2008 presidential elections as compared to the 2004 elections.” To the surprise of many, the voter turnout among young people rose to 51.5 percent, which is the third highest rate ever recorded. While older generations still lead when it comes to the turnout of voters, empowering younger generations to a part of making a difference could carry the 2016 presidential election.
It being a major election year, many politicians are aiming to get young people more involved in politics. Notably, Senator Bernie Sanders, 2016 democratic candidate for president, is basing much of his campaign on his ability to create higher voter turnout among the youth and low-income citizens. Since he focuses on issues that interest 18-24-year olds, such as student-debt, it is no wonder that so many young people are “feeling the bern.”
Social media being the preferred way of staying up to date with election news and information among younger generations, the 2016 presidential candidates have turned to social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. This smart online approach has given Sanders and other front-runners like American businessman, Donald Trump, direct contact with millennials.
Speaking of, the AP Government and Politics classes at Revere High School are right on top of the 2016 presidential election. From watching and commenting on the GOP debates for homework assignments to conducting mock caucuses in class, it is safe to say that these students are informed. They have formulated their own opinions when it comes to the popular issues being discussed by the 2016 presidential candidates and many have chosen which candidate they will support come November.
While the majority of these students are registered independents, or plan to register independent upon turning 18, 59.1 percent of them will vote Democrat compared to a 40.9 percent that will vote Republican, according to a survey. This survey also showed that nearly half of these students support democratic candidate and former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton. On the Republican side, Senator Marco Rubio and Donald Trump hold the support of some members of the AP Government and Politics classes.
When speaking to some of these students directly, one Donald Trump supporter said, “With taking AP Gov and becoming eligible to vote this year, I have definitely become more involved in politics. I have also found myself on the Republican side of many important issues, such as immigration and foreign policy.” She is not alone, as a Hillary Clinton supporter found immigration to be a pressing issue as well. She said, “Coming from a family of immigrants, immigration reform has always had a direct impact on my life. Particularly today, immigration seems to be the central issue on the policy agenda that increases polarization within our government.”
According to one Revere High School student, Bernie Sanders has her support because he is the first candidate to be “honest, real, and genuine” in his “fight for the common man in Senate.” This same student indicated that, in her opinion, the most pressing issues at the moment include Obamacare and abortion. “Both are health issues that are threatened to be defunded by some Republicans like Cruz, who limit access to abortion clinics in Texas,” said the student, “Abortions are an issue because more and more of them are getting shut down, denying women access, which is both a health and civil rights issue.”
It is recently becoming very clear that millennials could have a significant impact on the 2016 election, just as North Carolina’s high youth turnout helped President Obama win that state in 2008. For this reason, it is important for this year’s candidates to reach out to young voters as much as possible, encouraging their involvement in the world of politics and aiming to win over their vote. After all, voting is habitual; therefore, starting to vote earlier in life means more habitual voters overtime and voting could also be the pathway to other civic engagement later in life.
Cheyanne is currently a senior at RHS and participating in the internship program with the Revere Journal.