Activists are working to increase voter turnout among young people. In the 2020 election, less than half of young eligible registered voters actually voted. New Mexico State University student Nevaeh Torres-Carrillo says the 2020 election was her first time at the polls.
“The last election was actually the first election that I’ve voted in, and I do plan on voting in future elections,” said Torres-Carrillo.
Young eligible voters are identified in the age group of 18 to 24 years old. The 2020 election saw a 48% youth voter turnout, which is an increase from the 2016 election’s 39.4%. Nevaeh says her motivation came from candidates that shared her values.
“I think that it’s important to find someone that has the same values as you, and knowing that they are going to make a difference for not only your life but the people after us too. I think that motivates us to go out and vote, and have our say-so by filling out a piece of paper,” said Torres-Carrillo.
Studies have shown that young eligible voters can be socially influenced to vote, meaning that if their friends don’t vote, then they won’t vote. Nevaeh doesn’t see voting as a trend.
“I don’t think it should be a trend. It should be for when you feel ready to vote because it shouldn’t be based on what other people are doing or what other people believe either,” said Torres-Carrillo.
Social media plays a big role in civic activism; but students say the motivation to vote goes beyond what they see on their social media feed. NMSU student Paige Estrada says, like other generations, hers is fighting for change.
“I think something that has really motivated us, and it sounds crazy, but it’s definitely not social media that has influenced us. It’s that we want to make a change in our future and for our future generations. We want them to have a change. We want to have our voice heard so we can progress and keep moving forward rather than being held back. We also want minorities to have a voice as well, which I think is really important too,” said Estrada.
But to vote for change, you have to learn which candidates are pushing for change. NMSU student Eli Baca says gaining access to candidate information is easier than ever.
“I think in the digital age of information, it’s the easiest we’ve ever had it. We can turn on our phones and go to any news app or any website and find whatever information we’re looking for,” said Baca.
Although political information is sometimes easy to access, Estrada says it is difficult to find unbiased information.
“It’s definitely been difficult because you have different news networks that are biased based off of their parties, so it’s hard to find one that is a neutral ground. Once you find that, it makes it a lot easier to figure out where you want to vote towards,” said Estrada.
Baca says his drive to make a change is what motivates him to show up to the polls.
“I think what motivates me to vote is looking for a change in my community, my state, and my nation,” said Baca.
So, what kind of change do young people support? A Harvard University poll of 18 to 29 year old Americans shows a majority back progressive values, with big increases in that support over the last five years.
An 18-point increase in agreement with the statement “Government should do more to curb climate change, even at the expense of economic growth” 55% now support that statement.
A 16-point increase in agreement with the idea that “The government should spend more to reduce poverty” 61% now back that policy.
And a 16-point increase in those who say that “Basic health insurance is a right for all people, and if someone has no means of paying for it, the government should provide it” 64% now support that idea.