Millennial voters continue to be one of the most underrepresented populations at the polls in 2016, despite growing by 16.5 million over the past four years – outnumbering baby boomers.
The millennial generation, thus far, has been hard to define and the parameters of where it begins and ends changes from source to source. However, most sources define a millennial as being someone born between 1981 and 1998.
Amy Reynolds, Dean of the College of Communication and Information, believes a lack of participation isn’t distinct to the millennial generation but rather a trend of young voters in general.
“I think if you look at patterns over time, millennials aren’t necessarily different from any other generations in that younger people often don’t vote as frequently as other people do,” she said. “There is a gap in participation, and that has historically been the case.”
CIRCLE, a non-partisan youth voting research center out of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University, thinks the definition of the millennial generation is too broad and redefines it for its research.
“Were trying to differentiate between millennials and young people as much as we can because millennials are up to 34 right now, whereas generally when we are talking about youth data we are talking about ages 18 to 29,” Abby Kiesa, youth coordinator and researcher for CIRCLE said.
CIRCLE does extensive research regarding youth voters and their patterns. It looks as historical data rather than aspirational data – so instead of asking hypothetical questions about youth voters and turnouts, it looks for trends over time to make its predictions.
Youth voters in Ohio
According to CIRCLE, there are 1.7 million young citizens who are eligible to vote in Ohio. In the past three presidential elections, and average of 53 percent of Ohio youth voted.
So far this primary season, young voters nationally have turned out in larger number compared to the primaries in 2008, however, in Ohio the number has decreased by 11 percent from 479,400 to 425,500, according to exit poll data collected by CIRCLE.
Unlike past years, Republican youth voters outnumbered Democrat youth voters this primary election and voted similar to their older counterparts.
Governor Kasich won 48 percent of the vote, followed by Donald Trump with 24 percent.
Senator Bernie Sanders had overwhelming support from Ohio youth voters with 81 percent of the votes, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 19 percent.
Source: CIRCLE analysis of exit polls from Edison Research
Why the decrease?
There are several reasons why voter turnout might be lower including young voters not being registered or if they are, not being able to find the time to make it out to the polls, but Kiesa thinks it could be a larger institutional problem.
“Clearly, we have education civic political systems that aren’t set up to welcome young people into the process,” she said.
Having civics classes required in high school simply isn’t enough to make young citizens active participants in our political system.
“They need to understand the system, they need to be registered to vote, they need to know where how when and need to be able to understand that and make a plan for themselves about casting their ballot,” she said.
Another reason could also be the culture of politics and social media.
“I think a lot of us think political activism is posting something on Facebook, and sharing your opinion and there is a big difference between sharing your opinion and doing something about it,” said Hana Barkowitz, sophomore public relations major and president of the College Democrats.
How the youth votes
With easy access to the Internet and social media, Millinnials are also much more knowledgeable on a candidates stance on issues.
“What is encouraging about millennials – I think we will see them being more and more engaged over time over other generations because they are more educated generally speaking than any other generation has been before,” Reynolds said. “They are more diverse, and they are much more accepting of change and uncertainty.”
Millennials also tend to be more educated on a candidates issues and take them to heart when voting.
“When we look at presidential campaigns, I think its also really important to see that the data from exit polls indicates that young people are much more tapped into what a candidates issues are than older people,” Keisa said.
However, with the sensationalism of some candidates, like Donald Trump, sometimes a candidates message can be lost.
“Unfortunately, for students, the real issues get clouded by personal characteristics,” said Jennifer Hutchinson, junior political science major and president of the College Republicans. “There is so much information that has become overwhelming to students that sometimes it just becomes easier to focus on a personal characteristics, or maybe just a social issue that you really want to get behind.”