After attending a Jeb Bush rally yesterday, two of my classmates and I were approached by reporters from the Huffington Post and asked to give video interviews that might be used in a documentary the newspaper is creating about young voters. This is not the first time a news outlet has sought the insight and opinions of young people on this trip; I personally have been asked on three other occasions to speak to the perspective of a young voter at different political events, and I know that other St. Olaf students have had similar experiences. In this contested political process, the thoughts and actions of young people have become newsworthy.
And it isn’t, of course, just news organizations; candidates themselves share this special interest in young voters. At every rally or town hall I have attended, whether for a Republican or Democrat, issues of student debt and affordable higher education received much attention. Without fail, each candidate spoke about lowering student loan rates and addressing rising tuition costs, usually with a nod to the plight of “young people in this country”. Hillary Clinton especially has gone to great lengths to appeal to millennial voters, referencing everything from internet memes to pop culture icons like Beyoncé in an attempt to secure the vote of that demographic.
Young people of voting age are sought after because they represent a sizeable portion of the voting population yet they continue to turn out the lowest rates of voter participation by age. From 1985 to 2014, voters aged 18 to 29 consistently demonstrated the lowest election turnouts of any other age bracket. Young voters are up for grabs, and especially in a small state like New Hampshire, successfully mobilizing the young voting population could make or break a campaign for the nomination. Come February 9, it will be interesting to see who, if anyone, emerges with the millennial vote.
--Elizabeth Branscum is a St. Olaf sophomore from Oklahoma City, OK studying Sociology/Anthropology and Environmental Studies. She is in New Hampshire as part of a St. Olaf political science class studying the presidential eleciton.