Approximately 46 million people ages 18-29 were eligible to vote in Tuesday’s election. And according to exit polls, at least 49% of them voted, accounting for 19% of total votes.
That being said, more than 50% of young adults were absent from the polls, too, for a multitude of reasons.
Lukas Peterson, a 20-year-old junior at the University of Minnesota didn’t vote because “politics, to me at least, are one of the things that tears people apart.”
Peterson said he watched all the presidential debates and both parties’ conventions, but says he feels people are judged on which way they vote, and he doesn’t want to take part in that.
“I don’t to be defined by what I put down on a piece of paper one day every four years,” he said.
A voter walks to a voting booth at a Madison, Miss., precinct. More than 50% of the nation’s young adults did not vote in the election.
Peterson and other college-aged citizens said they feel tremendous pressure to vote.
Bobby Stroud, a junior at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., said he thinks older generations look down on young people who don’t vote. He planned on voting, but encountered a snafu along the way, which prevented him from casting his ballot.
“I wasn’t aware of the process of having an absentee ballot,” Stroud, 20, said. “By the time I tried to get it sent in to me, the deadline had already passed.”
Stroud, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., said he thinks most people learn about absentee voting through family or word of mouth. He said he didn’t hear about it early enough and he thought he could vote wherever he wanted. Stroud unwillingly missed his opportunity. Robby Lee, 23, simply passed on his.
Lee, a senior at the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga., said his vote wouldn’t have mattered in Republican-dominated Georgia.
Most of Lee’s close friends voted, and Lee said he would have voted in swing states like Ohio or Florida, but he doesn’t feel like he’s obligated to vote.
“I feel like I’m obligated to analyze if I should vote,” he said. “If I don’t think about it, then I’m not doing what I should as a citizen.”
There’s a public perception that voting is a citizen’s duty, and 20-year-old Briana Dziewiatkowski was going to adhere to that duty until she got caught up at work and the chance passed her by.
Dziewiatkowski, who attends Kirkwood Community College in Iowa City, Iowa, said she didn’t vote because she was at work all day. It was her first chance to vote in a national election and she said it was disappointing the she wasn’t able to.
“I would have liked to see my vote kind of count and see the person I voted for come [out] on top because I would have liked to be a part of that,” she said.
Despite more than 50% of young people not voting, Rock the Vote president Heather Smith said she was satisfied with the turnout.
“Tonight’s results hopefully put an end to the accusation of a so called ‘enthusiasm gap,’” Smith said in a statement Tuesday night.
“This proves that any campaign that ignores young voters does so at its own peril.”
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