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This article was written by Patrick Gannon and published in The Mountaineer on October 26, 2015.
RALEIGH – The mood of Millennial voters ahead of the 2016 elections is a “sense of helplessness.”
Voters ages 18 to 34 see a nation very much divided along partisan, racial and socioeconomic lines.
“There is a sense that we cannot come together as a nation, that the politicians are furthering the gap rather than closing it. There’s also a feeling that it’s not getting better and won’t get better.”
Those are the words of Rob Autry, founder of Meeting Street Research, a public opinion research firm in Charleston, S.C., who recently conducted focus groups among Millennial voters in the swing states of Ohio, Florida and Colorado. Those states each voted twice for Republicans and twice for Democrats in the last four presidential election years. Each state has a Democratic and Republican U.S. senator.
Many Millennials, according to the research, don’t see voting as a civic duty or responsibility. They believe older generations are paying more attention to politics and therefore are more informed when they go to the voting booth.
They also are frustrated with politics because they expect progress to be made based on candidates’ promises during campaigns.
“Millennials are known for wanting instant gratification, and with elections and voting, you go years and don’t see what you were promised,” Autry told the audience at a recent conference of the N.C. FreeEnterprise Foundation, quoting a Florida Millennial.
The young voters also said they see the voting process as inconvenient, inefficient and antiquated, and they don’t want to wait in line for 30 minutes to an hour to cast a vote.
Many Millennials don’t have any great loyalty to a particular political party. Most of the focus group participants said they could see themselves voting for members of the other party. At the same time, they don’t understand why they often have only two candidates to choose from on a ballot and desperately want more political parties.
The issues of most concern to Millennials are the lack of good-paying jobs, rising education costs and debt and health care costs. Because of recent headlines, Planned Parenthood funding, race issues in policing and school shootings and gun control also are on younger voters’ minds. National security wasn’t at the top of their list of issues.
There also was a sense, Autry said, that the candidates for president in 2016 haven’t started engaging Millennial voters by talking about the issue most important to them.
Autry said more needs to be done to remind Millennials about the importance of their votes, while candidates should focus on issues important to the youngest generation of voters.
“I think there’s tremendous hope for this generation to get involved and engaged,” Autry said. “I think the burden lies on the candidates and the elected officials to engage them.”