While waiting for rehearsals to start, freshman John Flanagan scrolls through his phone to catch up on the latest political news and to browse the various think pieces on political candidates in prepartion for the upcoming elections.
“I think it’s important to be an educated voter and to know what I’m voting for,” Flanagan said.
Despite the seriousness with which Flanagan takes his civic duty, he acknowledges that many of his peers are more apathetic about voting and the upcoming elections.
“I think a lot of young people don’t vote because they aren’t totally satisfied by any one candidate,” he said. “If they don’t like any one candidate, they’d rather not vote at all, which I think is a bad mentality.”
Millennial voters are an influential demographic in presidential elections, often heavily determining outcomes. But in more recent years, studies have indicated less of an engagement in politics among millennials.
“There are polls, signs that younger voters aren’t as engaged in politics as they were eight years ago,” Associate Professor of Political Science Duane Oldfield said. “Young voters went very heavily to Obama in 2008. [Obama’s] whole margin came from younger voters.”
As voter turnout among millennials largely depends on the personalities and platforms of the candidates, Oldfield believes that this year may see major differences in voting trends from previous election years.
“It’s a particularly fluid election where I think we may also be getting more candidates than two,” said Oldfield. “I think it could be an election where past group voting patterns get scrambled.”
In the face of uncertainties regarding millennial voters’ behaviors, Oldfield noted that several trends among young voters will remain the same. He said young voters are disproportionately independent, but very liberal-leaning.
This propensity among young voters to lean toward independent politics can be seen, according to Oldfield, in millennials’ general lack of party alignment.
“I think that volatility in terms of party alignments could particularly apply to the young. One of the things you see over the long term with young voters is, not surprisingly, they tend to be less plugged into existing parties É I think younger voters are particularly disillusioned with the course of standard politics.”
While Oldfield believes this year may be different than any other election year in recent history, other experts predict that millennial voters’ behaviors during this election cycle will not differ from others.
Politically, millennials are not very different from previous generations, according to Associate Professor of Political Science Andrew Civettini. He believes that the recent trends and polls on millennial voters’ attitudes toward politics are not indicative of a more turbulent political season, but are representative of the general patterns and habits of young voters.
“When you think what causes people to vote or not vote, one of the most consistent things has to do with the costs and benefits of voting,” he said. “There’s less immediately at stake for younger voters, so it’s more difficult to motivate younger voters when the costs and benefits are less immediate.”