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The 2014 Youth Vote
by WKCD| NOVEMBER 13, 2014
For both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, WKCD produced—with the youth-led news bureau Y-Press—a special feature called "Youth on the Trail." We created a one-of-a-kind youth beat, with articles, interviews, and survey results from Y-Press reporters—including profiles of politically active youth nationwide, articles about issues meaningful to young voters, and stories filed from the floor of the Republican and Democratic conventions.
With the 2014 midterm elections in the rearview mirror, we thought we'd share a small sample of recent news articles concerning the youth vote that caught our eye. As you will see, the "youth vote" continues to defy easy characterization.
On Thursday, CIRCLE released its exclusive, revised two-day estimate of national youth voter turnout, which shows that at least 10 million young people went to the polls in Tuesday’s midterm elections — a youth turnout rate of 21.5%. The number of young voters in Tuesday’s election is comparable to the turnout seen in other, recent midterm contests. In 2010, the two-day youth turnout estimate was 20.9%, or around 9.2 million young people. In a wave election for the GOP, youth still tended to vote Democratic. In the national exit poll data on House races, 18-29 year-olds preferred Democratic candidates by 54% to 43%. In many close Senatorial and gubernatorial races, youth preferred the Democratic candidate, and sometimes they were the only group that did (e.g., in Florida). In terms of both turnout and vote choice, 2014 actually seems quite typical of a midterm year as far as youth are concerned. Young people made up a similar proportion of voters, and with some exceptions, were more likely to cast ballots for Democrats in tight races.
BROOKLINE, MA — A candidate and his campaign manager walked into a bar, though they could have been mistaken for clean-cut college students home for the weekend, which is also what they were. Curt Myers — tall, polite, shirt tucked in — introduced himself to the owner as a candidate for state representative, having invited voters to Washington Square Tavern for an outing called “Cold Ones with Curt.” “We love your establishment,” said Myers, 21 and still getting a feel for his hometown’s bars. “So,” said owner Gerald Finnegan, returning Myers’s handshake. “How’s the campaigning going?” “I think we’re going to surprise a lot of people,” Myers said. “I’m a Republican running in Brookline, which is difficult.” Finnegan chuckled. “That is funny,” he said. It wasn’t a joke, although neither man had seen a Republican run for representative in Brookline before. The last time it happened was 1992, before Myers was born; the GOP candidate that year got drubbed. ‘When I first heard that a Republican was running in the district, I thought, either he’s awesome or he’s crazy.’ Quote Icon “We’re doing God’s work,” Myers said, smiling. He has called it an “uphill climb.” Finnegan suggested it was more like “ice skating up a hill.” Little about Myers's candidacy is conventional — setting aside, even, his childhood doing homework in the State House executive suite and eating peanut-butter-filled pretzels at Mitt Romney’s house (his mother is Republican strategist Beth Myers), or the genesis of his campaign in a bicycle accident. Myers is a senior at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. After a summer of door-knocking and strategy sessions in his parents’ basement, Myers scheduled classes this term for midweek and took leave from the Dutch Pipers a capella group, trekking 180 miles each way to spend four-day weekends campaigning in Brookline. He is doing it in a town where less than 7 percent of voters are registered Republican, in a district so blue — the 15th Norfolk is home to Michael Dukakis and the birthplace of John F. Kennedy — that Representative Frank Smizik first won by running to the left of the previous Democratic incumbent. Read more >
Voting is one of the most important things I’ve done in my life. I recently voted for the first time. I would assume that for everyone, their first participation in an election is an experience they will never forget. Although I voted via mail, it was no less thrilling. A few weeks ago I arrived home from school and was excited to see the ballot on my desk. I could not simply fill in the bubbles on this ballot. I had to make a well thought-out decision on every part of the ballot. I wanted my vote counted in all the races on the ballot. My father researched the people running and the propositions for this year. I did my own research and listened to his opinions. Finally I filled in my ballot and put it in the mailbox. Even though it is a midterm election, I immediately felt the importance of voting. When I was younger, I thought that voting would not accomplish anything. My thinking was that corporations are the ones really running the country by controlling the politicians. Now don’t get me wrong, I still think a lot like that, but there is one major difference. Now I realize that people like me who did not understand the power of the vote are the reason that policies important to us may not pass. As I navigated the realms of social media, I came across a popular phrase that read “Not voting isn’t rebellion, it’s surrender.” More young people must go out and vote. It is important for everyone, but my generation has an important responsibility to decide what type of world we want for our future. We must realize early on that voting is no joke. We must remember the people who literally died for the suffrage of minorities like myself. We must understand that the issues put into question in elections are issues that affect our lives directly. Maybe election day should be a national holiday. That is how important elections are. Many people don’t vote simply because they can’t take time off work or school. That needs to change. Just like us young people need to participate more, the people in charge right now need to make the voting process easier, not harder. Regardless of who you vote for, a democracy is not complete when the people do not vote. Whether one person is pro-life or pro-choice, for universal health care or against it, for more environmental laws or against them, is not the issue. The point is to vote and create a culture of social participation especially, but not exclusively, for young people like myself. I am glad to see movements that encourage youth to vote. One example is the Rock the Vote movement that is motivating many young people to participate. I’m also glad to see the reaction young people have when certain groups, including the media, fail to realize the importance of the youth vote. Recent comments made by a Fox News host on why young women shouldn’t vote was insulting. This type of speech against young voters is intolerable and we the youth need to prove them wrong by voting and participating in this civic right and duty. My experience with voting was transcendental and I am sure it will be the same for everyone who tries it.
Binnur, a senior at Mar Vista High School, is a past participant in the U-T Young Latino Journalism Scholars program
Whether or not we realize it, each and every one of us is fighting in a war. I don’t mean the many wars now being fought with bullets and bombs all around the world. Rather, I’m talking about the war of ideas and the war against apathy. I am a 17-year-old high-school student. One of the most harmful beliefs among some of my generation is that values are unimportant or “uncool.” But in a day and age when people of all ages seemingly don’t care about important issues, resistance to such apathy is growing among younger Americans, myself included. As Election Day approaches, perhaps the generations preceding ours — those charged with teaching us and leading the way — could benefit from a youthful expression of gratitude for our wonderful democratic system, even as I eagerly approach legal voting age. Our dismal rates of political participation suggest we have forgotten what we have: the rights to speak our opinions freely, to vote for those we think are going to lead us well and to act when we believe they are failing us. Thousands of men and women have died for these things over the history of our nation. Wars are being fought around the world by brave people hoping to secure the sort of system that we take for granted. So why are we no longer using these hard-won rights to participate? Most young people follow the example of the growing number of adults who are uninformed, uncaring and even negligent toward the issues of our day. Most have abandoned traditional notions of civic duty for what can best be described as civic negligence. Most, but not all. In my role as governor for YMCA Texas Youth and Government, a mock government program for teenagers, I work with 1,200 students statewide who are informing themselves on the issues of the day and fighting against abandonment of civic duty. As much as current trends reflect creeping cynicism, our efforts reflect our anti-cynicism, our earnest belief that we can help preserve our great nation and our freedoms. We do so with hope and confidence that we will soon emerge as leaders of our state and nation. However, our enthusiasm does not make us naive. We know our efforts are not enough. With that in mind, here is my challenge: Rekindle your own youthful optimism, and let us serve to motivate you into doing something. First, get informed about the issues of the day and move beyond apathy into developing supported beliefs about them. Second, get to know your candidates for the upcoming election. DO NOT vote for a person because they have an elephant or a donkey next to their name. Vote because you think they are truly the most capable leaders. I will share this quote from a man known to my generation only through history. But to many readers, he was a man who inspired you to vote — either for or against him. President Ronald Reagan reminded us: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. … It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” Go and learn. Go and vote. Go and preserve your freedom.
Daniel Hayworth is a senior at Temple Christian School in Fort Worth. He serves as youth governor for the YMCA Texas Youth and Government.
A poll of young voters released Wednesday bore what on the surface seemed like terrible news for Democrats: A majority of millennials likely to show up at the polls said they were backing the GOP. In the Harvard Institute of Politics survey, Americans ages 18 to 29 said they preferred a Democratic Congress to a Republican one by a 7-point margin. But a smaller group who said they definitely planned to vote favored Republicans by a 4-point margin, 51 percent to 47 percent. During the last midterm election, Harvard polling found Democrats significantly ahead on the same measure, meaning the new findings represent a massive, 16-point rightward swing since 2010 -- itself not exactly a banner year for the Democrats. “In contrast to where we were four years ago, the youth vote is very much up for grabs politically,” Harvard Institute of Politics Polling Director John Della Volpe told reporters during a conference call Wednesday. Some of the change comes from a swing among independent voters, who preferred the GOP by 19 points, up from 5 points in 2010. Much of the difference, however, has to do with voter turnout: In 2010, young Republicans were only a little more likely than young Democrats to say they'd definitely vote. But this year, Republicans had a 12-point advantage. Overall, 26 percent of the 18- to 29-year-olds polled said they would definitely vote. . . . Despite Harvard's findings, other polls have not found a similar shift. Finding comparable data from other surveys can be tricky, since likely voters under 30 make up a slim fraction of most polls. But several national surveys still give Democrats a double-digit lead. As NBC'S Mark Murray notes, NBC/Wall Street/Annenberg surveys this fall -- which give the GOP the advantage overall -- have Democrats leading by 10 points among likely voters age 18-29, close to the results in 2010. A compilation of Pew Research's national polling in September and October, shared with HuffPost, also shows Democrats ahead, 57 percent to 38 percent, among young likely voters asked whether they'd vote for a Republican or a Democratic candidate. Reuters/Ipsos' online tracking polls since September give Democrats an overall 18-point lead over Republicans on the same question among likely voters age 18-29. Read more >
Rock the Vote, the turnout organization geared toward voters ages 18 to 24, thinks it knows what they want. In its intended-to-be-viral video released this month, “ TURNOUTFORWHAT” (after rapper Lil Jon’s song “Turn Down for What”), millennial icons such as Lil Jon, Lena Dunham, Fred Armisen explain that they’re going to vote because of marijuana legalization, reproductive rights and climate change - issues that, they think, will drive young people to the polls on Tuesday. They aren’t alone: The press, political parties and advocacy groups parrot the same messages to new voters. There’s just one problem: Young voters, who tend to stay home during midterms, care most about the issue that all other Americans care about: employment, and how to secure a decent income in a reawakening economy. In an election that, we are told, will be determined by turnout, organizers and pols still have no idea how to speak to young people. The naivete is widespread. Columnists, politicians, organizers and campaign consultants continually float non-economic issues such as marijuana or global warming as the miracle elixir for young voters’ lethargy. Yet they perfectly understand how government programs such as Social Security matter to seniors or tax credits and loans matter to middle-aged adults. Even when attempting to approach millennial economics, they get it wrong: President Barack Obama’s recent appeal to youths through an essay on Medium talked mostly about innovation, devoting only one sentence to unemployment. He completely ignored the minimum wage, internships, or temporary and part-time work, despite the particular relevance to the demographic. Yet millennials are perfectly clear about the primacy of traditional economic concerns to their voting. In Fusion’s Massive Millennial Poll from this month, the largest recent survey of this segment, potential voters named “the economy” their most important issue by far (twice as popular as “education”; seven times as popular as “climate change”). Read more >
America’s young adults are swinging away from Democrats, according to a new survey published by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics. Though the GOP is closing the gap on Democrats in relation to young voters, a push away from the left may not guarantee a win for the right among the politically apathetic voting demographic. Harvard published its 26th Survey of Young Americans’ Attitudes Toward Politics and Public Service on Wednesday, a poll compiling political preferences and voting patterns among America’s 18- to 29-year-olds. The young adult demographic made up 11 percent of the electorate during 2010’s midterm elections, according to The Hill. With plenty of races still neck-and-neck heading into Election Day, even a fraction of the demographic could tip the scales in a particular candidate’s favor. “Our new poll today shows America’s young likely voters are politically up for grabs and could be a critical swing vote in races across the country,” said Maggie Williams, director of Harvard’s Institute of Politics in a conference call Wednesday. “The message to political candidates is clear, not just for now but in the future: Ignore millennial voters at your peril.” [READ: Newspaper Endorsements Propel Candidates Into Next Week's Midterm Elections] Among those who said they “definitely will be voting” in next week’s midterm elections, 51 percent of young adults said they would prefer a GOP-controlled Congress. That's up from 43 percent during the 2010 midterms. When the question is broadened to include all young adults, including those admitting they are less than certain they will vote on Tuesday, 50 percent said they would favor a Democratic Congress, compared to just 43 percent preferring the GOP. Read more >
First they were supposed to vote early -- in a nightclub. Then students, employees, and faculty at North Carolina's Appalachian State University were supposed to vote early a mile from the farthest edge of campus, in a county building that had little parking. Then, after students filed a lawsuit, a state judge intervened, saying that the county board of election's decision to end early voting in the on-campus student union -- after eight years of allowing it -- could have no purpose but to disenfranchise students and was unconstitutional. That decision, however, was not the final word. It was put on hold by an appeals court, and then the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. By that time, the Watauga County Board of Elections had decided to restore on-campus early voting -- a practice it had eliminated by a partisan vote pushed by the board's Republican majority. Appalachian State is the largest employer in Watauga County, and its students make up roughly 40 percent of the county's population, but their preference for Democratic candidates does not jibe with the rest of the county's Republican tilt. In 2012, about 35 percent of the county's early votes were cast at the Appalachian State student union. But after all the chaos, it turns out that Appalachian State students are the lucky ones: They are some of the only students in North Carolina who will be able to vote early on campus this year. Early voting sites have been eliminated on college campuses across North Carolina and the South, part of a broader effort by local elections officials and state lawmakers to erect new barriers to voting. The new policies, which run the gamut from shortened early voting periods to strict voter ID requirements, disproportionately affect young voters -- and especially youth of color. Read more >
If the right to vote is the heart of American democracy, the participation of youth is its lifeblood. The passage of the 26th Amendment, which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18, was one of the crowning achievements of the student and youth movements of the 1960s. It recognized that our young people have a direct stake in the direction of our country, and have a right to a voice on its future. But powerful forces, acutely aware of the threat the American youth vote could pose to their interests, are actively working to silence the power of young people at the polls prior to November's midterm elections. We need to make sure they don't succeed. While legal efforts underway will help, it may take years for many of them to prevail. In the meantime, a key weapon in this fight is ensuring young people know their rights -- and that they understand the power they have to shape the future of our country at the ballot box. It's a matter of not only education, but also engagement. Unfortunately, forces interested in suppressing the youth vote have scored wins in recent years. The Supreme Court, for instance, recently upheld laws limiting early voting in Ohio and same-day voter registration in North Carolina. And tough laws requiring voters to present a photo ID at their polling place persist in many places, ostensibly to fight in-person voter fraud, an issue that has generated a lot of attention but been shown to be virtually nonexistent in reality. The real result of these laws is to disproportionately prevent African-Americans, Hispanics, the poor and college students from casting their votes. Read more >
Youth voter turnout in North Carolina, including a sizeable segment of ethnic voters, will play a critical role in determining whether Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan retains her seat against Republican challenger, state House Speaker Thom Tillis, according to data on the voting patterns of youth of color. “The issue of the youth vote in North Carolina is related to but not identical to issues of race and ethnicity, but North Carolina’s young voters, ages 18 to 30 years old, are more diverse than its older voters. So who votes in this November’s election will be important to the outcome,” said Peter Levine, the director of the Center for Information & Research on Civic and Learning Engagement (CIRCLE), a nonpartisan institute based at Tufts University in Massachusetts. In addition to North Carolina, states where the youth vote could affect the outcome in November’s competitive political races include Alaska, Colorado, and Louisiana, according to an analysis CIRCLE released in August. CIRCLE’s data on African American, Asian American and Hispanic youth show the complexities at play in ways that may challenge common assumptions about what motivates youth to become civically engaged or affiliate with a political party.For example, the data show “a significant percentage of African American men more often identify as conservatives, given the choice of ‘are you a liberal, moderate, or conservative,’” Levine said, as opposed to African American women, who more often tend to self-identify as liberal. Gender differences are not only apparent in choice of political party, but in how they view their personal involvement. Though young women of color have typically higher rates of civic engagement than men as measured by volunteerism, they are “still less likely to see themselves as political leaders,” Levine said, adding that this view is fairly consistent with women across all ethnic groups. Read more >
FAYETTEVILLE, AR — Former President Bill Clinton on Tuesday made a tailored pitch to young voters, urging students to back Democrats on the 2014 ballot because they are “too young” to cast votes of “resentment.” Those comments came at the University of Arkansas’ flagship campus on the third stop of Clinton’s two-day, four-stop tour stumping for Arkansas Democrats. “Why are all these people trying to get you to cast resentment votes?” Clinton, the state’s beloved former governor, said of national Republicans. “You’re too young. You should be voting for what you’re for. … You should be voting for your dreams.” It was an echo of remarks he made a day earlier, when Clinton argued that the GOP was trying to convince Arkansans to view the midterm elections as their last chance to vote against President Barack Obama, who is deeply unpopular here. . . . Clinton’s emphasis here, speaking to a pavilion packed with cheering students, was more focused on the importance of the youth vote — a group that tends to back Democrats but also tends to stay home during midterms. “The reason this keeps happening is, you don’t show up in midterms!” he admonished as he lamented congressional gridlock. As he did in earlier stops, Clinton noted that the polls show the Democrats either locked in close races or trailing — but he said that was based on the assumption that young people don’t vote. “This is all about whether you show up,” he said here, saying that midterms are “every bit as important to your I’m too young to vote, so it’s up to you to preserve our freedomfuture as elections when there is a presidential candidate on the ballot.” Read more >