Flagler millennials uncertain about midterms

news logoBy Justin Katz | gargoyle@flagler.edu

With the gubernatorial midterm elections approaching, many eyes are on the millennial voters.

Both Republicans and Democrats have shown interest in the youth vote, but the question remains if the younger generation will vote at all.

A poll conducted by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics showed that millennial interest in the midterms is declining. A survey done by the IOP concluded that percentage of millennials who said they “will definitely be voting” has dropped from 34 percent to 23 percent in a matter of months.

The reasons for this are varied.

“There is a sense of the millennial generation being institutionally disaffected,” said Arthur Vanden Houten, Ph.D., associate professor of political science at Flagler College.

He believes that many young people have weaker affiliations with political parties because, regardless of how they vote, they identify as independent.

In addition, there is a general apathy towards the election due to a lack of knowledge about the candidates and the local issues.

“Relatively speaking, it’s not easy to vote [in the United States] compared to other societies,” Vanden Houten said. “And the more hurdles you add, even small ones, the more it reduces the number of people who vote.”

Flagler College senior Samuel Martin doesn’t identify strongly with either party.

“I have an adversity to just voting along party lines,” Martin said. “It is a choice between the lesser of two evils.”

Martin has not prepared an absentee ballot yet and has no plans to. For him, voting is simply inconvenient.

However, not everyone is discouraged by these hurdles. President Barack Obama mobilized the millennial vote in 2008 and 2012 with a 52 percent and 49 percent turnout, respectively, according to CIRCLE, a research organization for civic learning and engagement based at Tufts University.

Rachel Cremona, political science professor at Flagler, says one reason Obama was able to bring out younger voters was through the use of social media.

“Social media is really important and he was the first to really recognize that,” Cremona said. “Often times non-voters that are in that younger group will vote as a result of the influence of friends that are politically active.”

Turnout for presidential elections is, however, always more significant than for midterm elections.

Mel Foden, a senior at Flagler and president of the Student Government Association, intends to vote in the midterm election. Her motivation to vote partially stems from the same thing that discourages Martin: her sense of home.

“St. Augustine and Florida are my home now,” said Foden, who is originally from New Hampshire. “By voting, that means I have to do research, keep up with state and local laws being created and the general direction of politics.”

Foden, who has plans to stay in St. Augustine for at least a year after graduating, sees voting as a way to stay accountable to the community. She wants to see people in office who will benefit her while not making unnecessary policies.

Ultimately, though, many students will have the decision made for them if they do not take action. With the general election on Nov. 4, waiting too long could have consequences.


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