Young Voters May Turn Political Tides

Ms. Talia Loiter

During the 2016 presidential election, CNN reported that only 1/2 of the young people in the US voted. They estimated that 13 million of the 18-29 year olds who voted, chose Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and only 9 million voted for Trump. That means that a large majority of the younger population voted Democratic, or simply voted against the Republican Candidate, Donald Trump. For millennials (aged 18-34), most general elections also tend to sway towards majority liberal with 49% voting Clinton and only 28% Trump, as reported by CIRCLE (The Center For Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement).


So what will happen when more young people start to come of age? Today, 68% of  young voters identify as independent or liberal, according to the Pew Research Center, and even more are turning 18 just in time for the next presidential election in November of 2020.

The independent group has the ability to swing elections during close calls. RealClear Politics,  a Chicago-based political news and polling data aggregator, asserts that the party that wins independents will likely win the House majority. Capturing these non-affiliated voters (neither Democratic or Republican) is often essential to winning a swing district (which may have enough electoral college votes to push the election over the edge).

Margaret Mathon (17), of Williston, Vermont says that she considers herself an independent, “I see points on either side that I believe are valid, and I feel like the [Democratic and Republican] parties are very extreme.”

Some students, like Josh Scheidt (17),  were passionate in their disapproval of the president. “I definitely don’t support him because he has a lack of involvement in ruling, dishonesty, lack of effective policy, and failure in what was promised to voters.” Others, like Ryan Underhill (16),  see both sides. “I feel the way that he approaches certain issues can be childish, but at certain times, this far into his presidency, I feel he has made some good choices.”

New voters like Underhill may have a major effect in the upcoming elections according to National Constitution Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the United States Constitution. They assert that independent voters will be able to swing elections left or right if they register to vote in swing states. These voters hold lots of power in states like Florida who could fall either way during an election and give a huge amount of electoral college votes. Even so, most of these young independents still trend liberal.

This is a major switch from the generations before them. Only half of older voters voted Democratic in the 2016 election, according to CNN. Mullein Francis is almost 18. She explains how some of the older members in her family have different views than her. Francis says she knows they agree with her on some topics, but she can see a clear divide between generations. “They also don’t support Trump, but they’re more conservative [than I am].”

Others, like Scheidt, see the same divide. He explains that his “dad is a moderate, and my grandmother is a conservative. I feel as though those views often reflect a generation that I don’t belong to.” Scheidt reflects a view that is more open to new ideas.

“The current high school classes are some of the most politically involved groups of students in years,” says college administrator, Aimee Loiter. Many of these kids will be 18 before the next presidential election in 2020, and more and more students will be ready to vote.

There is a major possibility for younger people to be the tie breaker in the upcoming years so many students are excited at the prospect of having their voices heard. Some, like Scheidt are worried they won’t be heard. “I’m looking forward [to voting], but I believe that voting on a national level with the electoral college in place limits my voice as a citizen.” Still others are ready to take the lead, Mathon says, “It’s my right, and it’s my voice. I can be a part of change. Many people in the world don’t have these rights so I should use mine. I can make a difference!”