Political Participation Among Millennials

You’ve probably heard about the presidential election–it’s big, rowdy, covering all of the news sites, and even came to Utah recently. Both Democratic and Republican caucuses were held on March 22, with Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz sweeping the state over the frontrunners in both parties, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. But while the Utah caucus results provided a valuable boost to the two alternatives, I’m not so concerned with who people voted for in Utah, but who did the voting.

Millennials are defined as people born during the years of 1980-2000, and they are just gaining the right to vote. According to an article published by Harvard’s Institute of Politics in 2015, “If [Millennials] were more organized, they would be one of the largest voting blocs in the nation. Unlike the ‘greatest generation’ or ‘baby boomers,’ Millennials have not exerted their political power.” However, this election cycle has seen teenagers flexing their political muscles–attending rallies, like seniors Arza Helm, Roy Brambila, and Damon Ngo did, or going out to vote at the caucuses like teenagers from Bingham did on March 22.

So what’s changed? The article from Harvard Institute of Politics goes on to say that Millennials are not likely to get excited about politics unless politicians specifically address issues that concern them–issues like college tuition, student debt, and a higher minimum wage. Senator Bernie Sanders, who has large amounts of support among the younger generation, has addressed all of these issues in his campaign.

Junior Meggan Moore says, “I personally feel like Bernie has the appeal because he speaks to young people like they are actually people who have their own ideas and problems. He addresses the problems that [young people] are going to face.”

However, an article from Town Hall suggests that not all young people like Sen. Sanders because of the issues that he addresses. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has addressed the same issues — college tuition, student debt, and a higher minimum wage, but Millennials don’t seem to like her. Moore says, “Hillary tries to appeal to young people through memes and the Internet, and while it’s funny for a second, it really is insulting. She is campaigning on the premise that our generation has no concept for real-world problems and all we care about are memes and cat videos.”

The Republicans have similar issues to the Democrats — Millennials see the frontrunner of their race as dishonest and inconsistent. According to the article from Town Hall, young people don’t trust Trump because he “faces a class action lawsuit for swindling middle class Americans who attended Trump University out of their life savings on false promises of making it on real estate. He is being audited and refuses to show us his full tax reforms.” He also talks strongly about building a wall, keeping out illegal immigrants, and keeping American jobs for American workers, but his companies have been accused of violating immigration laws at every turn.

Meanwhile, Ted Cruz has much stronger support among Millennials because they believe what he says. The article from Town Hall, ‘The Millennial Case for Ted Cruz’ says, “He’s no reality TV star… He never left the Republican Party twice and then called himself “Ronald Reagan”… He didn’t get attention by calling George W. Bush a terrorist. He has held the same stance on immigration since 2010.”

But candidates aside, Millennials are proving to be an important bloc in politics. The old belief that politics is primarily for senior citizens that don’t have anything better to do is failing, and it’s being replaced by a new generation — a generation that appreciates being talked to like adults, a generation that wants our politicians to be honest, consistent, and tell us the truth. Recent polls have shown that whichever candidate wins the millennial vote will win the election.

Get out and vote. As senior Roy Brambila says, “We’re a huge part of the population, and it makes sense to not let others choose our future for us. So it doesn’t matter what political party you are, whether you’re conservative or liberal, go out there and make your voice heard.”