I’ll start by identifying myself.
My name is Tyler Krusz - I’m a college student. A junior at the University of Rhode Island, specifically, and studying political science as well as journalism.
I’ll be honest. I love politics- studying them, talking about them, debating. It’s all really interesting. But I’m a sports guy, and most of the friends and connections I have on this campus are also sports guys. To them, politics isn’t a big attention-grabber, which is the same with most college students that don’t actually study politics. So where am I going with this?
Voting. Media outlets are calling these midterm elections some of the most important of the century, with lawmakers running on topics such as gun safety, abortion, immigration, etc. In traditional politics, campaigns would sometimes completely ignore the voters from 18-24 years old. So few of them actually go out to the polls that, sometimes, they can be completely omitted. I mean, more young people voted for Bernie Sanders than for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined.
With the 2018 Midterm Elections upon us, the turnout for all age groups will be less than two years ago since there is no presidential election. But, how many college students will end up coming to the polls to vote in their representatives and governors? I did as much as I could to talk to as many people as possible about whether or not they were voting, and try to gauge the college turnout for the elections this year.
When I asked a group of my political-science-student peers, they were mostly all voting. Some had even already sent in their absentee ballots. Shocker. I mention them first because, well, they’re kind of outliers in this poll.
I was hanging around a few of my buddies from home about a day or so later when I asked them the same question. I’m a Cranston native, and these guys are Rhode Islanders These guys aren’t journalists, aspiring politicians, or any characteristic that screams, “I’M AN AVID VOTER” at anyone who walks by. I know a decent amount of them that voted in the presidential election, mainly because it was their first time with the opportunity to vote and they felt strongly about one of the candidates.
I’ve known my friends for a while, and I didn’t really expect them to make the trip up from URI to go to the polls. Classes at the University weren’t even cancelled for election day. I just wanted a conversation to start flowing as to why. The four housemates eventually came to the consensus that no election for is going to directly impact their lives until their 30’s, when they are financially stable, paying for a house, and raising a family.
Fair point. Even the $45 million proposal for URI’s Bay Campus won’t be finished until years after we graduate. None of us care too much about marine biology, anyway. They see nothing for them on the ballot. There’s no candidate that sticks out as being relatable to 20-year olds and would drive them to show up at the polls, like a Bernie Sanders.
For this piece, I wanted to talk to as many people as I could. I developed a strong relationship with the students that lived in the same hall as me a few years ago when I was studying engineering. The Rhode Islanders all seemed determined to get out to the polls. A few people I knew from Connecticut said they were making the trip home, and a couple New Jerseyans sent in an absentee ballot. I was shocked- expecting most people to be a lot like the first group I spoke to.
I asked the Rhode Islanders why they were driving all the way home on a school day just to cast a ballot. Some of them hate Fung, more of them hate Raimondo, but all of them realized that there is absolutely nothing to lose from casting a ballot.
College students have been active in protests and movements across the country, but the only way to directly be heard is to vote.
When I spoke with my colleagues in the sports media field, a lot of them live out of the state. As expected, out-of-state students are unlikely to vote in the election, it’s just common sense. There is too much going on in the life of a college student, not that everyday life is much easier, and traveling and applying for absentee ballots really aren’t priorities for many students.
The last, and possibly most accurate area to predict how the young voters will turn out is social media, especially Twitter. As of January 2018, 40 percent of Twitter users in the United States are 18-29 years old.
As with many kids my age, I LOVE Twitter. I have over 44 thousand tweets, I’m on it all day, I catch up on sports and news and music and everything through the app. I noticed something this year that I have not seen since I made my account in January of 2012- the Get out to Vote Campaign.
Everyone with a platform- from actors, to athletes, to (obviously) politicians- have been pushing voter registration through social media this year more than it ever has been pushed. One post that stood out to me was Mark Ruffalo, or Bruce Banner of the Avengers. A fan asked what the next Avengers movie would be titled, and he responded with, “Avengers 4: Register to Vote.”
Even in 2016, the political-sphere of social media was so dark. It was all about bashing Trump, or bashing Hillary, or bashing Trump-supporters, or bashing Hillary-supporters- you see where this is going? There’s a lot less keyboard war this election period.
The manners surrounding the last election may have disgusted people and brought about change, and maybe a little tolerance online. But most politics-related posts on social media this year have been advertising the aspect of voting. It isn’t the 65-year old seniors that are scrolling through Twitter and need to be reminded to register to vote, either.
From what I’ve seen and heard, young people seem tired of being ignored by the system, and the lack of representation in the government has changed the attitudes of a lot of them. The increase in political conversation on social media has driven the younger demographic to care about politics, whether at the presidential level or more local. There is more information accessible to this age group than ever before. 2016 saw an increase in young-voter turnout, and 2018 will be the same way. It may not be the end, but it is the beginning of young voters taking their voices back. And we all have Twitter to thank.
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