Millennials rival Baby Boomers as biggest voting bloc in the nation
Next month, Americans will face the reality of electing one of two of the most divisive candidates for president in the history of the nation.
Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton have about a month left to convince voters they are the best choice for president.
Trump’s platform is based on immigration reform, repealing Obamacare and “renegotiationg” international trade deals. Last week, he also garnered media attention for his derogatory comments toward women more than a decade ago.
Clinton’s platform places emphasis on closing the wage gap between men and women and also is in favor of supporting free college tuition. Most of these policies she has changed opinions on over the course of her political career. She has also been the focus of numerous scandals pertaining to her deleted emails and the Democratic National Convention hack.
Students have the ability to vote for one of these two candidates, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, Green Party candidate Jill Stein or to simply abstain from voting. But by Oct. 11, that opportunity might be removed from some people if they don’t meet the deadline to register to vote.
Students can register at the Secretary of State office on 1245 N Mission St. or the city clerk at 320 W Broadway St. during their hours of operation. Voting requirements are that a person must be a United States citizen, at least 18 years old and be a resident of the area they are registering in. It is also possible to register by mail by downloading forms from vote.gov.
Regardless of whether you plan on voting, college-age voters are poised to have a significant say on Election Day.
The impact of this election season
This presidential election, millennial and college-age voters have more power than ever before.
For the first time in history, Millennial voters nearly outnumber Baby Boomers and Generation X-ers. Compared to the 69.7 million Boomers who can cast votes this Nov. 8, Millennials are now at an unprecedented 69.2 million voters. According to a Pew Research Center study done in May, both generations each make up about 31 percent of the voting pool.
The Millennial generation has the ability to shape the future and elect a candidate who potentially embodies their personal or political beliefs.
If every voter who identified as a Millennial cast a ballot this November for one candidate, that person would win, said Brandon Dillon, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.
“The power is there,” he said. “It’s (one of) the largest voting blocs in the country: higher than seniors, (nearly) higher than Baby Boomers. The only problem is getting you to turn out.”
Statistics place Millennials as the largest pool of voters in the nation. Yet when it comes to targeting votes, politicians often go after other generational groups because Millennials are less likely to show up at the polls on Election Day.
Fixed term faculty member Kyla Stepp said this perceived “voting apathy” isn’t apathy at all — it’s the inability to be allowed to vote. Millennials, classified as people between the age 18 and 35, are typically either students or have full-time jobs. The demand to stay at work and to perform well in school largely keeps this group from being able to go to the polls.
Many Generation X-ers and nearly all Baby Boomers are targeted by politicians because they are more reliable voters.
Traditionally, political parties sent information to voters via mail and landline calls. This method of targeting voters still works with the Baby Boomers and Gen X-ers, but fails with Millennials.
Now, parties have to figure out new ways to reach the young vote, typically through electronic means like email, and social media such as Twitter or Facebook, said Chair of the Michigan Republican Party Ronna Romney McDaniel.
“There’s a strategy. Most of your generations don’t have landlines or get mail,” she said. “The parties have to now find ways to get that content to you (Millennials) in less traditional ways to encourage you to turn out (on Election Day).”
Millennials have also been one of the most vocal groups about their dissatisfaction with the major party presidential nominees.
When Sen. Bernie Sanders entered into the presidential race, billing himself as a voice for the disenfranchised, many believed they had found a candidate who represented them. When Sanders lost the Democratic nomination, an overwhelming amount of Millennials began criticizing the country’s two-party system.
In the wake of Clinton’s nomination, some Millennials began championing for voting third party or not voting at all according to an article from the New York Times.
Dillon said those two options are not realistic and voting for unliked candidates is “just politics.”
“The only way you’re going to get someone who (shares your same ideals) and who looks like you, is if you run for president yourself,” he said.
Dillon credits increased use of social media and 24-hour news coverage of the elections as a major reason why political polarization is such an issue in this election.
Back when he first voted, Dillon said there were only “three channels” on television. From what was broadcast, it was up to voters to interpret that information. Now, anything goes, he said, no matter how absurd.
“You used to have some (reporter) telling you the way it was and that’s the way it’s going to be,” Dillon said. “Now, if (I) get on my phone, I can find 150 articles to justify anything I’ve said (about politics), no matter how right or wrong (the statement) is. We tend to self-select more on what we’re exposed to.”
Falsehoods fed to voters by candidates has become such an issue, media outlets such as National Public Radio and the New York Times have begun “truth checking” statements.
Politifact, a website launched in 2007, is dedicated to double checking not just presidential candidates’ statements, but all politicians. Giving ratings on their “Truth-o-Meter” from “True” to “Pants on Fire!,” the website has been an integral part of double checking assertions made during this presidential election.
Stepp said while lying has always had its place in politics, in this “era of partisanship and hyper-polarization that we’re in,” the dishonesty in this campaign “takes on a whole new light.”
“We’ve always seen a little bit of (lying) during speeches and debates, so this election isn’t that unusual in that regards,” she said. “People with social media, especially with younger people who get all their news through social media, candidates have seen they can just kind of just throw things out there and know people aren’t going to fact check (them).”
Looking at future elections
From Stepp to McDaniel to Dillon, all agree — it would be detrimental for Millennials to be soured by this election.
“A lot of what we’ve seen in this election has really changed the face of (politics) from the use of social media to hyper-polarization,” Stepp said. “The biggest thing (Millennials) can do this election is be educated.”
McDaniel said she will sometimes quiz her college-age brother and his fraternity brothers on the state of politics. She said politics affect Millennials whether they’re “tuned in” to what’s going on during this election or not.
“The more we can educate (young voters), the better prepared they are to make decisions,” Romney McDaniel said.
In an effort to combat low voter turnout, candidates are beginning to stop around the country to register people to vote.
Monday, the Clinton campaign plans to stop in Detroit and register voters before the deadline.
Students are also making an effort to register their peers to vote so they can cast a ballot this November.
Tim Minotas, president of Central Michigan University’s College Democrats, went door-to-door with the group Vote Mob over the past month to make sure students had the knowledge to register and were aware of their deadlines.
He said going to residence halls and apartments benefitted the students who lived there, people who he believed might otherwise not have the time to register.
“It’s important to get out there and vote. Students need to realize we are part of the Millennial generation,” Minotas said. “We are (almost) the largest generation in history and we make up a majority of the voting population. If we stand up and speak out, we can make the change we want to see in this country. We have the power.”
Mackenzie Flynn, president of CMU College Republicans, said voting is so important to her that she was in line at the Secretary of State “the Monday morning after (her) 18th birthday.”
“I think there is no greater feeling than educating yourself on different topics, forming your own opinions on them and then casting your vote,” she said. “It is a great feeling getting to have a say in how you think the community around you should be run. I think it is wonderful that there is a larger push to vote in this election.”
McDaniel emphasized the importance of the Millennial vote by referencing the 2012 presidential election. She said because President Barack Obama polled high with Millennial and minority vote, he was able to clinch the election.
“The reason Mitt Romney lost the presidency was because of the millennial vote,” she said. “I don’t know the exact number but if people ages 41 and over was the only group counted, (Romney) would have won. But he didn’t. The Millennial vote is critical.”