The 2016 presidential election saw roughly the same percentage of youth voters as the 2012 election, but an increase in young voters who did not identify with either major party — something experts say reflects their views on American politics and poses a clear challenge for the major parties. “Youth voters are skeptical about the two major parties,” said Abby Kiesa, director of impact at the The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. “Young people want drastic change, and they don’t think Republicans or Democrats will give them that.”
Young people are increasingly leaving behind the two major parties. This year, 35 percent of youth voters said they identify as independents, which is almost the same as the 37 percent who identified with Democrats before the election. This is compared to 29 percent independents and 45 percent Democrat in 2008.
“It’s either you stand for something or fall for nothing,” said Michigan State University freshman Sam Bryant on voting in the 2016 Presidential Election. Thousands of MSU students feel the same way, with record-high numbers of new student voters registering to vote in this year’s election.
With the election coming to a close on Nov. 8, not only will the nation choose the new president, but the new commander-in-chief as well. Donald Trump has made some clear numerical statements as to what his plans will be as the leader of the armed forces, while Hillary Clinton has made some more qualitative statements. Trump has stated that he will increase the size of the U.S. Army to 540,000 active personnel from roughly 473,000. This surge of troops will restore the Army’s size to a level similar to its size back in 2008, the year directly following an armed forces “surge” in Iraq.
A widening gap between young voters who have access to high-quality civic education and those who don’t is threatening young people’s ability to be active members in America’s democracy, experts say. In the 2012 election, 56 percent of youth who had any college experience voted compared to only 29 percent of youth with no college experience. Young people between 18 and 29 make up 40 percent of the youth population. The gap was similar in the 2008 election, when 62 percent of youth with any college experience voted, compared to only 36 percent of youth with no college experience. “Studies point to young people who are in wealthy districts are more likely to be exposed to the evidence-based, high-quality civic practices,” said Abby Kiesa, director of impact at The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University.
Content Warning: Mentions of sexual assault, violent language and comments from survivors
On Nov. 6, sexual assault survivors and their supporters will be gathered at the State Capitol for a pre-election survivor sit-in from 4-6 p.m., with a candlelight vigil at 5:45. The sit-in is in protest of the existence of rape culture within this election cycle – one that is encouraging many survivors to vote. “I wanted a space to gather with fellow survivors and to show the Michigan community, especially our political leaders, that the state of our nation is not OK,” said Christine Babcock, co-organizer of the event and a Western Michigan University alumna. The weekend Donald Trump’s assault tape was released, the National Sexual Assault Helpline reported an over 30 percent increase in calls from survivors.
If every millennial woman voted, there would be a huge voting bloc in this election, said Katherine Mirani, news editor at Her Campus. According to the Center for American Women and Politics, 64 percent of women reported voting in the 2012 election. But of those voters, only 45 percent of women age 18-24 voted, compared to 61 percent of voters age 24-44, 70 percent of voters age 45-64 and 73 percent of voters age 65-74. “We have a lot of power as young women,” said the editor, 24, from Boston, “but we have to actually use it.”
On Sept. 27, Her Campus – a new-media brand for empowered college women based in Boston, Mass.
Medina Osmanagic is a child of Bosnian immigrants — an identity that has drastically influenced her participation in American politics. “My family is not very Americanized and barely speaks English,” said the junior studying neuroscience and Spanish at Michigan State University. “They feel like they are less than everyone else.”
While her parents have lived in the United States for 19 years – after seeking refuge from the Bosnian War – they continue to hold a strong connection to their home country. This relationship with Bosnia has specifically affected Osmanagic’s willingness to participate in U.S. elections. “My parents have never voted a day in our (family’s) lives, so they never pushed it on us,” said Osmanagic.
Traffic cleared and Lizzie Ausmus led me across Grand River Ave towards the MSU Union. She only had 25 minutes for an interview, in between work and her class at the engineering building. Ausmus is a bio-systems engineering junior, and she rarely has time for anything besides class and work. “It’s a struggle a lot of the time,” she said. “I don’t really have what you would call the normal college life.”
Alongside her demanding classes, Ausmus works at the Timbers Golf Club every weekend as a caddie.