With less than two weeks until the country decides whether a reality TV showboat or a #nastywoman will set up shop in the Oval Office for the next four years, all eyes are turning to see what’s gonna happen with the Millennial vote. It seems every election cycle, the spotlight invariably shines on young voters, partly cuz they’re notoriously and reliably lackadaisical when it comes to getting out and casting their votes, but mostly cuz children are our future and stuff.
Two recent polls shed light on where the young’uns’ heads are at and victory appears increasingly less likely for the GOP presidential candidate—at least among Generations Y through Z. A survey from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics found the former Secretary of State leading the former proprietor of the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City by 28% among 18-to-29 year olds. That’s good news for the potential first female POTUS, who has struggled to connect with Millennials, many of whom felt the Bern, but weren’t quite ready to be with her.
Meanwhile, in a mock election conducted by Channel One News of more than 300,000 students in grades 4 through 12 across all 50 states, the erstwhile first lady handily trounced the erstwhile Drumpf, with the former garnering 365 electoral votes compared to the latter’s small handful of 173 electoral votes. The olds might be asking, “Why should we care how 10 year olds vote in a phony presidential election?” The answer would be that the results of Channel One News’ OneVote campaign has accurately predicted the outcomes of the past six elections since the program started in 1992, so, you know, precedence.
Young voters historically have been less engaged with politics and the political process than older voters, yet a tremendous amount of attention is paid to them every four years because they serve as bellwethers for where the country’s political and cultural tides are turning. Although 69% of respondents in the Harvard IOP survey said they don’t consider themselves to be politically engaged or politically active, 74% said they are registered to vote. Nationally, 58.5% of 18-to-24 year olds and 66.4% of 25-to-34 year olds are registered to vote, compared to 76.6% of voters ages 55 to 64 and 78.1% of voters ages 65 to 74, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
The nearly 24/7 news coverage of every goof and gaffe of the 2016 presidential election sideshow coupled with changing demographics and the surge of young people aging into voting eligibility may have motivated more Americans to register to vote this year, with national registrations surpassing 200 million, a historic high. By comparison, only about 146 million out of 219 million eligible voters were registered in 2012, and only 57.5% of Americans actually cast ballots that year.
While America is still many election cycles away from picking its first Millennial president, the 2016 election will likely go down in history as a watershed moment for young Americans, in much the same way that the UK’s Brexit vote will impact the lives of young people across the pond for a generation. Whether American Millennials exercise their collective voice to cast the deciding vote that transforms politics as they did in helping to elect the country’s first black president or whether Millennials end up protesting the two-party system and tossing their vote to a third-party candidate will determine the future course of our nation and which reality we’ll wake up to on Nov. 9.