In the 2018 United States Midterm Elections, voter turnouts hit a 50-year high. Although voting numbers reached this historic benchmark, a closer look at the numbers shows that still only 53% of eligible citizens actually voted. Of that percentage, people aged 18-24, the demographic that encompasses college students, only 28% actually voted in 2018. Can college students effect the 2020 election?
These numbers can be rather alarming. Young people, especially college students, hold a tremendous amount of political influence. They can sway the future of America towards more progressive landscapes. These changes simply can’t be made if they don’t show up to the voting booths. With more than two thirds of young Americans failing to show up, the voices who vote get drowned out.
Many young people express that they feel like their votes don’t count or that their expectations and needs are pushed aside. This results in a large number of them completely sitting out of elections. It’s easy to see why though. Early into their lives, younger generations faced two economic recessions. College and healthcare are more expensive than ever. With the current Covid-19 pandemic, job prospects for graduates have become increasingly sparse. There just isn’t enough political representation in the US to address the demands of the youth.
But even with the looming sense of dread as new leadership is elected every four years, we have seen the positive effects of rallying the voice of the young. In 2012, when Obama was reelected for a second term as President, he was able to win 67% of the national youth vote. These were vital in his victories in battleground states such as Florida, Ohio or Pennsylvania. It proves as a collective, young voters can sway elections in their favor.
The college-aged demographic became a respectable force in the political world, due to Obama’s victory. We’ve seen past candidates, such as Bernie Sanders, learn from Obama’s successes. Sanders actively engages with younger demographics using social media, visiting campuses, and fighting for causes that college students care about (such as cancelling student debt). The engagement increased his popularity on social media. Sanders has the most social media followers of any past candidate in the 2020 election – 12.2 million followers on Twitter and 5 million followers on Instagram. Although Sanders did eventually back out of the 2020 presidential race, many perceived him as one of Trump’s biggest rivals throughout the entire campaign in part thanks to his youth supporters.
The Case for the BattleGround States
For a future candidate to secure any chance at winning the 2020 Elections, they must focus on rallying the support of battleground states. Either candidate can sway these states. Their populations do not lean toward a particular political party. The chart below shows in-state enrolled students in battleground states. It represents the potential of college students to influence the outcome of an election. Therefore, educating college students of the impact and magnitude of their voting rights becomes increasingly important, now more than ever.