As the 2018 midterms creep closer, there’s one demographic that could change the future of the United States: Young people. More specifically, those who are 18-29 years old.
Since the 1970’s, it’s been difficult for candidates or political parties to get America’s youth to go to the polls, despite 18-35 year olds making up 31 percent of the United States’ voting population, according to the Pew Research Center. But could that be changing?
A fall 2018 survey by the Harvard Institute of Politics found that 40 percent of 18-29 year olds said they are likely to vote in the 2018 midterms, up from the 19.9 percent of those in the same age group who voted in the 2014 midterms. However, those numbers vary by party affiliation. Among those in the Harvard study, 54 percent of Democrats said they were likely to vote, whereas only 43 percent of Republicans said the same. Only 24 percent of independents plan to vote.
“I think it’s our civic duty to vote, frankly, if you breathe air you should go vote,” said Adam McMurtry, a political science major at ETSU who identifies as an Independent. “It’s your responsibility. You have this right, and you should use it.”
Being a student, of course, presents it’s own unique challenges when it comes to voting, or rather, finding the time/opportunity to go out and vote, something second-year communication studies major Logan Younger emphasized.
“I feel like voting is important, but I also feel like it’s difficult for students to vote — especially when they live out of the county they are going to school in,” he said.
While getting to the polls is a hassle for some, this election is one where every vote can be the difference maker. According to a November poll done by ETSU, former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen (D) and Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R) are tied at 44 percent favorability among likely voters.
While the race for governor between Bill Lee (R) and Karl Dean (D) isn’t as close (48 percent Lee, 36 percent Dean), 9 percent of those surveyed were still undecided, while an additional 7 percent either refused to answer or plan to vote third-party.
“This is one of the closest races we’ve seen, really up and down the board, both in terms of our state and our region which is normally, relatively uncompetitive,” said Seth Manning, president of the ETSU College Democrats.
While the race for Senate and Governor has dominated headlines, it is equally important to pay attention to local elections for city officials and representatives both in Congress and the state legislature.
”This [election] will impact you in the future whether you vote or not,” Manning said. “At the end of the day, it’s better to [have a] say in something that’s going to affect you than to just stay out of it.”