Young voters may not see their first-choice candidate on the ballot this November, but the stakes have never been higher -- and it's never been more crucial to participate in democracy.
Despite efforts by both major-party candidates to reach out to the youngest generation, the data suggests millennials may be less enthusiastic about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton than voters in general — but they’re following the race and staying engaged.
Clinton enjoys a healthy lead over the Republican businessman among voters between the ages of 18 and 34, earning a majority of young voters’ support — regardless of whether those voters are asked about a head-to-head match-up or a four-way contest including Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party's Jill Stein.
But almost one in four millennial voters are still undecided or unsure that they will vote on November 8, according to a poll by USA Today and Rock The Vote. Two-thirds of those who say they haven't made up their minds told pollsters they don't like their choices, a result that underscores just how contentious the 2016 race has become.
The fact that one in four young voters is looking in from the outside is even more striking in light of another finding: 90 percent of millennials surveyed said they're engaged in the 2016 race and have given it some thought. These are hyper-literate voters who engage in political discourse online and are never more than a click away from news about the campaign. They're savvy technology users who get their information from a wide range of sources, whether it's their social media feeds, newspapers, community sites like Reddit, or satirical programs like The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.
Some millennials may be asking themselves: why bother voting? If your ideal candidate isn’t an option on the ballot, why is it important to show up on Election Day? Can't young voters make a statement by withholding their votes altogether?
That line of thought might be tempting for some, but it won't help the country or the democratic process. It won't do any favors to millennials as a voting bloc, and it won't help to bring attention to issues young voters care about.
As Senator Bernie Sanders, who drew significant support and enthusiasm from young voters during the presidential primaries, has said repeatedly, elections are not about a single candidate, but about exercising your voice and creating a movement for change.
While the data shows millennials are cautious about awarding their votes in this election cycle, it also shows they're passionate about issues like the economy, student debt, civil rights, criminal justice reform, mass incarceration, foreign policy and homeland security, according to USA Today and Rock the Vote.
To demand results on those issues, and to hold politicians accountable for the promises they make on the campaign trail, it's critical that the youngest generation affirms that it has a voice in national political discourse. The most effective way to do that is to make sure elected officials -- and politicians with ambitions of higher office -- know millennials are engaged, paying attention, and ready to cast judgment with their votes.
One long-time criticism of young voters is that while they're passionate and willing to share their opinions, they can't be relied upon to show up on Election Day. A generation of young voters proved that assumption wrong in 2008, when they turned out in record numbers, contributing to the highest voter turnout in history and the highest percentage of participation in 40 years, according to Politico.
That's encouraging, but to hold politicians accountable -- and to remind them to keep America's younger people in mind as they govern -- voters between 18 and 34 must demonstrate that they're a reliable political force, not a flash in the pan. They need to prove they're in it for the long haul, not just those election cycles with magnetic candidates.
And that, more than enthusiasm for any individual candidate or election cycle, is why it's important to show up in November.
“As the nation’s largest and most diverse generation in history, Millennial voters are a juggernaut this cycle,” said Jesse Moore, Rock the Vote Vice President of Civic Engagement. “Young people are passionate about the issues, and we’re ready to fight for a future that is as just and inclusive as we are. Any candidate that chooses to ignore the Millennial vote does so at their own peril.”
Showing up on Election Day not only means politicians can't ignore young people as a voting bloc, but that they can't ignore the issues they care about either.
One way this newest generation of voters can make sure they're not being ignored is by visiting rockthevote.com and taking the pledge -- a pledge not only to vote, but to watch the debates, learn about the candidates, and show up to the polls informed about the issues and the candidates' stances on them. In recognition of the busy lives millennials lead, voters who sign the pledge will also receive text messages reminding them that Election Day is drawing nearer, and encouraging them to make their voices heard when the day arrives.
See you at the polls, November 8.
Source: Rock the Vote