RICHMOND, Va. — The outcome of the presidential election on Tuesday depends in no small part on the turnout of millennial voters. Democrat Hillary Clinton is especially depending on younger voters who had supported her opponent Bernie Sanders in the primaries and were very critical of her.
Zack Nussbaum, a junior at James Madison University, is planning to vote in this year’s election, because he believes that abstaining from voting will not change who the candidates are.
“In all honesty, I think that a lot of people avoid talking about the election because they have personal opinions that they know will find unappealing,” said Nussbaum. “I’m not a millennial hater, but we as a whole, we expect a lot of our problems to be fixed by other people and that’s just simply not how life works.”
Millennials, those between 18 and 29 years old, were crucial in voting Barack Obama into office in 2008. But those same voters were not as active in the 2012 election, as there was a nearly 10 percent drop in voter turnout.
According to the United States Election Project, 50 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old demographic voted in the 2008 election. In contrast, only 40 percent of them voted in 2012.
Brothers Michael and David Boyle both agree that it is important for them to exercise their right to vote in the election.
“People around the world may not have an opportunity like this to be a part of the political process, and I should take full advantage of my vote,” said David Boyle, a senior at James Madison University. “Not voting is a poor choice of protest,” he added.
Michael Boyle, a JMU junior, pointed out that it is his “right and responsibility as a citizen” to vote on Tuesday.
While they agree that voting is important, the brothers have different approaches to the election.
David Boyle remains undecided on who he is voting for. Meanwhile, Michael Boyle was very confident about his candidate.
“Donald J. Trump is my favorite candidate. He speaks in ways others are scared to and I truly think he will be best for this country over the next four years,” he said.
Kayla Brennan, a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University, has already voted via absentee ballot. Brennan was excited to vote for Hillary Clinton and to participate in the political process for the first time.
“I think it’s really dumb if people don’t vote, because people worked really hard to make sure that different groups of minority groups could vote. It’s just an important thing in our democracy,” Brennan said.
This election offers an interesting contrast to the 2012 election, when both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney had campaigns that offered little in the way of the current controversies. The main controversies in the last election were about Romney’s religion and the criticism of Obama’s effectiveness as president.
Allison O’Dell, a senior at Radford University, admits that she did not pay any attention to the previous election due to her inability to vote. “However, I do think there is a huge difference today compared to four years ago within society,” she said.
William Carino, a senior political science major at VCU, mentioned that millennials were very excited about Bernie Sanders, but that the enthusiasm disappeared a bit when Clinton won the primaries.
“I was a Bernie supporter, but I will have to vote for Clinton, because Virginia is a swing state and strategically it’s not a good idea to vote third party in a swing state,” he said.
Carino also has experience working for the New Virginia Majority, a group that targeted underrepresented voter demographics, such as young people, minorities, and the LGBTQ community. He tried to get them registered to vote. Carino has also worked for local politicians in the area and says that abstaining is not a good idea.
“Not voting literally renders you useless to politicians,” he said. “If you don’t vote, they don’t care.”
While many millennials are showing their willingness to vote in this election, others are remaining hesitant.
“It actually makes me excited to hear people say that they’re not voting,” said Neel Pillai, a sophomore at VCU. “I don’t like either candidate and I don’t want to have a part in the reason why they came to presidency.”
VCU Senior Steven Huskey seemed to agree: “I don’t really know much about either candidate, but from the little I do know, I don’t approve of either of them.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: WTVR.com has partnered with the “iPadJournos” mobile and social media journalism project at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students from the project reported this story.