Young voter parties more diverse in 2016

Text and video by Becca Mann, NewsNetNebraska

Young voter involvement

For Bobby Larsen, 19, the thought of voting in his first presidential election wasn’t even a choice.

Larsen, a junior political science major from Papillion, has been involved in politics since he was in elementary school. His interest peaked with the 2008 presidential election and has been snowballing since. Larsen has kept up with politics for many years, starting with memorization of presidents to most recently helping campaign for Retain a Just Nebraska.

Larsen isn’t unlike many other voters his age. He has taken advantage of opportunities to become involved in the campaigns that interest him the most.

However Larsen’s outward support of democratic nominee Hillary Clinton was different from quite a number of his peers around him. While Larsen posted on social media about Clinton’s efforts throughout the campaign and wore shirts and buttons supporting her cause, his peers took to voting polls with a different end goal in mind.

National Discussions

According to the 2016 exit polls published by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, the ability of the democratic and republican parties to gain the support of voters is wavering.

Courtesy of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Courtesy of The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

The report states, “In the 2016 election, less than 4 in 10 young voters identified with the Democratic Party and less than 3 in 10 identified with the Republican Party, which suggests that America’s two major political parties are having trouble attracting and maintaining a substantial and committed youth base.”

While the general turnout in numbers for the 2016 election isn’t much different from previous years, it’s the makeup and political identity of the voters that shifted the election’s turnout.

A November 10, 2016, discussion on NPR’s All Things Considered took a look into the millennial turnout. Host Audie Cornish met with NPR’s Asma Kahlid who covers demographics to get a better understanding of why 2016’s young voters were so different from those in previous elections.

Local Numbers

President-elect Donald Trump secured all five of Nebraska’s electoral votes, three of which were awarded by winning a congressional district. In 2012, Mitt Romney won the state of Nebraska by 21.8 percentage points. Trump won this cycle by 26.3 points. Of Nebraska’s 93 counties, 91 had a majority voting for Trump. Two of those counties fell into the democratic category.

Both Douglas and Lancaster counties had a majority of voters favoring Hillary Clinton. Those counties are also the two most populated in the state with the largest numbers of young voters.

Larsen was one of those individuals in Lancaster county who cast a ballot for Clinton.

“I voted because it is my civic duty,” said sophomore Emmie McMinn. “I wanted to have a say in who I wanted my president to be. This is the first election I could vote in so I was excited to have the opportunity.”

National Numbers

While Trump won the election overall, millennial voters turned out in high numbers to support Clinton. Had millennials been the only ones to vote in 2016, Clinton would have taken the advantage. However, looking at just those millennial voters, the trend of independent votes and write in candidates continued to be a strong trend.

Clinton was able to secure 55 percent of voters age 18 to 29 while the opposing Trump earned a much smaller margin at 37 percent. However unlike previous election cycles, millennials were open to voting for third-part candidates with one in 10 opting for Jill Stein of the Green Party or Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or even writing in their own candidate.

Eight percent of young voters chose vote third part as compared to the 3 percent who opted for it in 2012.

The Opposition

Not all young voters support the choice of their peers to opt for a vote outside of the mainstream.

“I know nothing about the Green or Independent party,” said 24-year old Kaela McCabe. “I guess I regard them as free thinkers, progressive and focused on social justice. I like that they are pushing for recount of the ballots in some states. It shows they really want our democracy to work like it’s designed to.”

However, even while the San Diego native supports the idea, she doesn’t find it purposeful in practice.

“I also think they [non-mainstream voters] are wasting their time, at least for the presidential election,” she said. “They’re kind of throwing their vote away because there’s no way their candidate will win.”

After the results were released, many voters, specifically Clinton supporters, took to social media to express their disappointment in those who chose not to vote for a mainstream candidate.

Larsen said he has an understanding of why young voters turned to independent parties this election cycle, but he said he doesn’t support it.

“I think what was frustrating from my personal perspective this past election is people on the left who considered Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to be comparable evils, ” Larsen said. “I caucused for Bernie [Sanders] but voted for Hillary, so I really don’t get that line of thinking.”

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