At a small, tight-knit private university in Winona, the leaders of both the college Democrats and Republicans found unity and cast votes for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, saying they were looking to turn a page on the nation’s divided politics.
Jonathon Krull, head of the College Republicans at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, explained it as a step away from the past four years of political combat over President Donald Trump.
“I felt as if it’s time we move forward, put the partisanship aside and come together,” Krull said.
Although Krull supported GOP candidates elsewhere on the ballot, his vote against Trump reflected a broader generational shift in the 2020 election.
Nationally, more than 61% of youth ages 18-29 voted for Biden, compared to 36% for Trump, according to the nonpartisan Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE). Biden received more youth support than Hillary Clinton garnered in 2016.
In Minnesota, young voters helped push the state toward record turnout, overwhelmingly choosing Biden. According to CIRCLE, 66% of Minnesota youth voted for Biden, compared to just 32% for Trump.
While the Democratic lean among young voters was expected, the reasons some college students gave transcended party lines.
“We are hoping that just the tone of our government’s policy can change, be a little bit more inclusive, open-minded and progressive,” said Clare Bath, who heads the college Democrats at St. Mary’s, a Catholic university established in 1912.
Young voters also turned out in record numbers, making up a 17% share of the national vote in this election, with the number expected to rise as votes continue to be tabulated in several states.
But young, conservative Trump supporters in Minnesota also saw some bright spots for their candidate.
Minneapolis entrepreneur Anton Lazzaro noted that Trump received more votes than Clinton or former President Barack Obama. Lazzaro, who remains skeptical of the U.S. intelligence findings of Russian interference in the 2016 election, said the president simply could not overcome the political headwinds against him.
“This is a sad reality knowing that both the fake Russian collusion narrative, the President’s often unnecessary inflammatory comments, and COVID-19 were what separated him from a well-deserved second term,” Lazzaro, 29, said via e-mail.
Ayah Abuserrieh, 21, a University of Minnesota Duluth student who is on the board of the Minnesota College Republicans, watched results come in on election night with other club members and members of the Minnesota GOP at a country club in Duluth. She said she was excited about the small gains Trump made with voters of color shown in exit polling.
“As a Muslim American that resonates a lot with me, and I’m very excited to see that increase among minorities,” Abuserrieh said.
She also got a taste of election night jitters, as did other young Minnesotans.
St. Olaf College student Hannah Liu, 21, voted early for Biden with hopes that he will address climate change. She is on the board of the College Democrats of Minnesota, which held a virtual watch party on Zoom after the polls closed last Tuesday. She said students felt a little down that night when they realized the race was going be closer than they expected.
“There was a little bit of concern with the presidential race, but also all of us were really paying attention to the Minnesota Senate race, and there were a lot of hopeful pickups [of legislative seats] that we didn’t receive on election night,” Liu said.
They were excited to see Democratic wins for U.S. Sen. Tina Smith and U.S. Rep. Angie Craig in the days following Nov. 3. “Youth are such a big part of these campaigns and organizing and they’re the field organizers, and they’re working so hard,” Liu said.
Macalester College student Lia Pak did not have classes on Election Day, so she spent the day making a final push for Biden with her housemates.
“I know a lot of people, myself included, channeled some of that stress into phone banking, text banking, just to get out the vote at the last minute, making sure people know where to go,” Pak said. “That definitely helped distract me from the waiting.”
Pak, 19, wants to see a swift COVID-19 response from Biden once he is in the White House. “We’re seeing surges in cases, and especially as we enter the winter months and flu season, I think that’s really concerning,” Pak said.
Though many young people aligned with the Democratic Party had hoped for a more progressive presidential candidate, over the past few months more young people came over to Biden, some pledging to continue working for their favorite causes after the election.
“I think since Biden has won, I have seen that kind of rallying effect,” Pak said, noting that political and civic engagement does not stop on Election Day.
“I think there’s a general sentiment I felt around my friends and people at college, that regardless of the electoral outcomes there’s a lot of work to be done,” Pak said. “I think just that a lot of young people I talked to are really motivated to get out and continue working on issues they care about past the election.”