Millennials at the Polls

SFR's 2012 Endorsement Issue

The “Millennial Generation” is the demographic of young voters following Generation X consisting of 18- to 29-year-olds.

The millennial generation is getting older. We are blossoming into young adults, heading off to college and/or the workforce and realizing the complications that come with this transition. Many of us are beginning to gain a general knowledge of our society. First-time voters in this year's election—US citizens born between 1990 and 1994—are one of the main focal points of this year's campaign. Young, naïve and reckless with our opinions, we have shown that not only does our vote count; it may even decide this election.

Young people aged 18-24 are generally enrolled in colleges across the country, some in states far from their home district and many racking up massive student debts. While they're entitled to register to vote in the state in which they currently reside, they can also choose to vote via absentee ballot in their home state. This suggests that, if they wish to be informed voters, these individuals would need to stay current with politics in their home districts. Some states prove advantageous while making this decision.

"I'm registered back home, but that's only because they have closed primaries and I wanted to vote in the Democratic Primary," Graves Lee, a Tulane University sophomore originally from Kentucky, says, "…but I definitely tend to stay more knowledgeable on New Orleans politics moreso than I would in Louisville."

Lee says that the actions of New Orleans and Louisiana politicians have more influence over his current situation than politicians in his home state since he only visits home for a few weeks at a time. "[They] just don't have an impact on me."

In the US, there are an estimated 46 million 18- to 29-year-old eligible voters, which made up 24 percent of the electorate in 2011 and, in 2015, will make up one-third of the electorate.

Of that 46 million, an estimated 78 percent plan to vote in the 2012 election—even though only 38 percent believe that their concerns are being accurately represented from the national candidates. Foreign affairs and the current financial crisis have been at the forefront of the recent debates, leaving the worries of the millennial generation unheard.

Trent Brown, an 18-year-old freshman at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, is registered in New Mexico and has not decided whether or not he will vote in this year's election.

"As far as New Mexico politics goes, I don't know that much," he says, "but I have been watching the presidential and vice presidential debates and keeping up with the news lately."

The issue of whether or not the presidential candidates represent the voting youth plays a major role in not only who the majority will decide on a national level, but how informed they choose to be as well. If neither candidate deals with the 9.3 percent unemployment rate for college grads aged 20-24 (12.9 percent overall for the same age range), then it is unlikely that they'll be able to capture the full extent of the youth vote.

It is clear that the youthful backing that pushed Obama towards victory in 2008 will be put into question this time around. In a recent poll, 89 percent of young voters said they believed that the economy has impacted them in one way or another. Just recently, Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan has been pushing to appeal to the young working class, while others still argue that they are "…pushing the same policies that led to the economic crisis in the first place."

While it is safe to say that the millennial generation has a definite impact on this election and many elections to come, the educated vote itself will always be left up to the individual. Many college students are in atmospheres conducive to following at least the most basic political decisions, but there are always some who choose not to get involved.

Nick Beckman is a journalism student at the Santa Fe University of Art & Design.

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