Millennials could determine who becomes the next U.S. President. But only if they vote. (Tweet this)
According to the Pew Research Center, which defines millennials as people between the ages of 18-35, this group is now as large a political force as their baby boomer parents. Both generations are roughly 31 percent of the overall electorate.
But millennials continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group.
As a mother participating in get-out-the-vote efforts, I wanted to find out what might motivate millennials to vote. So I asked two of my nieces. They both happen to live in the swing state of North Carolina. They’re not related to each other, don’t know each other. I have played absolutely no role in raising either of them and I didn’t ask what party they belonged to or who they support for president. I simply wanted to know if they planned to vote – why or why not.
Julia, 18, grew up in Charlotte, NC and is now a freshman at the University of South Carolina. This is the first time she’s eligible to vote for president. Ann, 22, was raised in the Raleigh area. A recent college graduate, she’s now looking for a job.
I was encouraged to learn that both Julia and Ann plan to vote. Here’s why:
“I believe it is my civic duty to be an active participant in elections,” said Julia without reservation. “Even though one vote may seem unimportant, it is. You are exercising your right to decide how you want your country to be led, and not everyone in the world can do that. “
Ann feels the same. “I believe my vote does matter. There are servicemen overseas who die for my right to vote. So I owe it to them and my country to vote.”
Both Ann and Julia think voting is “cool.” The historic nature of this election, and the fact that the first woman might be elected president inspires them.
“I remember my first time voting. I felt empowered,” noted Ann.
That said, Julia and Ann acknowledge that this election is discouraging for many of their peers.
“Both parties seem black and white, and my political views don’t necessarily align with one side or the other. You have to pick a candidate you might not be 100% happy about,” said Julia.
Though neither of the candidates are a perfect fit for either Julia or Ann, that’s not going to stop them from voting.
“As a freshman in college, I’m four years away from graduating and entering the workforce. The presidential election might change the job market, health care, and climate change.” said Julia.
Ann mentioned the Supreme Court appointments: “Who gets nominated to the Supreme Court matters most to me because two or three Supreme Court justices are expected to either die or end their time as a justice within the next four years, and this isn’t including the vacancy left by Justice Scalia.”
When asked what they think the key or “secret” is to getting their friends to cast their votes, Julia said, “Emphasizing that you can’t be upset or angry about how the government is being run if you didn’t vote in the first place!”
Said Ann, “I think the key is to tell them, “We need to look out for each other and we can do that by voting for the candidate we believe will be the best for our future.”
Are you a parent of a millennial? If so, here are some tips for talking with your kids:
- It’s about them. Not you. Don’t start a conversation telling young adults what they SHOULD care about. Ask them what they DO care about. Point them to a website like Defend Our Future, which is set up to motivate people to act on climate change.
- Stress that voting is power. Both nieces seemed to be surprised by how empowering it is to cast a ballot. If the millennials you’re talking with still don’t believe you, throw a little bit of history at them. One vote per precinct would have elected Richard Nixon over John F. Kennedy in 1960. A mere (and questionable) 537 votes in Florida helped the Supreme Court decide the 2000 election in favor of George W. Bush rather than Al Gore.
- Let them know it’s easy to vote. They can register to vote by text. And vote by absentee ballot of they’re not in their home districts. There’s also early voting in many states.
- Put them on notice: “You can’t whine if you don’t vote.”
- Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. There will never be a perfect political candidate – just like there will never be a perfect, well, anything.