Millennials are the largest living generation in the United States, surpassing the older generation known as baby boomers. Millennials have grown up alongside technology and social media, but, more importantly, they are the generation that could decide the election.
Millennials are categorized as adults ages 18-35 or adults who were born between 1982-2004. The U.S. Census Bureau numbers millennials at 75.4 million, which surpasses the 74.9 million baby boomers (ages 51-69). Those in-between, Generation X (ages 35-50 in 2015), are projected to pass the boomers in population by 2028.
But as great in numbers as young people are, it is a well-known fact that many of them do not vote, in this election as well as in previous elections. So, why don’t millennials put their voting power to good use?
“I don’t like either of the candidates,” said Oniyeche Nelson, a student at North Carolina State University who believes she is pressured to vote because of her race and gender. North Carolina is a swing state in this election and has gone Republican in the past. “Voting is supposed to be for who you want, who you believe in. I should be voting because I want this candidate to be in power, not because I am Black.”
But many disagree with this sentiment that is drilled into the minds of the youth, the idea that you have to like the candidate to vote for them. Oprah Winfrey recently went on the talk show “T.D. Jakes” and spoke about the issue.
“This is what I really want to say: All the people, I hear this all the time. You get in conversations—and there’s not a person in this room who hasn’t been in the same conversation—where people say, ‘I just don’t know if I like her,’” said Winfrey, regarding Hilary Clinton. “She’s not coming over to your house!”
CNN correspondent and host of NY1’s “Inside City Hall” Errol Louis said that there is a misconception among the youth that they are doing a favor for the candidate they are voting for, instead of looking out for their own interests.
“The way it works is people get confused between voting for a candidate and liking them,” Louis explained. “People act like they are supporting a celebrity. Every elected official is a public servant. It comes down to the question of, ‘Do I think this person can do what I need them to do in this job?’”
“If the standard is, ‘Is this person perfect?’—then all the candidates will disappoint you,” Louis continued. “If the standard is, ‘Is this someone I can be proud of and like?’—they will probably fall short on that too. But if the standard is, ‘Are the things that they promise things I would like to see even if they don’t do 100 percent of it?’—to me that is a more rational voter, and a more rational decision process.”
“A vote for Hilary is a vote against Trump,” said Casey Ahmed, a Muslim student who is firm on his vote against the Republican candidate. But Ahmed, like many young people, is not too thrilled about voting between the two candidates. “I can tolerate Hillary. I am voting because I hate Donald Trump more than I dislike Hillary.”
The difference in ideology between millennials and older generations is prevalent in terms of whether a sense of acceptance toward the candidate has to be in place before casting a vote. Because the acceptance is not there, millennials feel they should not or don’t have to vote.
YouTube launched a voting campaign called #voteIRL, where content creators published videos that were 1:34 minutes long, and during that time viewers registered to vote. YouTube determined it takes an average of one minute and 34 seconds to register to vote.
But are campaigns like these effective?
Studies show that millennials are far less likely to vote than their parents and grandparents in this election. As we’ve seen, millennials cite numerous issues as the reasons why they will not vote, including distrust for the government, not enough focus on the issues that they care about and a lack of time. But president elections are a two-way street. Candidates need to show more support for young people and issues that pertain to them if they want a huge voting turnout. This relationship was seen with Bernie Sanders, who was most popular with young voters because he focused on college tuition rates, student debt and affordable health care, all issues that pertain to millennials.
“Voter participating does increase, and it will increase, as they get older,” said Louis. “But sometimes there’s a misconception that it all doesn’t matter. If you are a CUNY student and your tuition goes up that usually gets students in the street. That’s when people start paying attention to government. All those people in government that you didn’t bother to vote for are now deciding things for you. Now you have no opportunity to change it.”