Young voters still participating less in presidential elections

The line to vote snaked around the Flawn Academic Center on UT Austin's campus. Nov. 4, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)
The line to vote snaked around the Flawn Academic Center on UT Austin's campus. Nov. 4, 2016 (KXAN Photo/Phil Prazan)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — During early voting, Texans went to the polls in record-breaking numbers. Despite campaigns efforts to get out the youth vote, young people are still less likely to show up and vote.

Friday night, the line snaked around the Flawn Academic Center on UT Austin’s campus for the last day of early voting. A surge of last minute early voters took many by surprise, including Swecha Ramireddy and her friends, who stood in line for an hour and a half. “Like we were on that side of the building and came all the way over here so that’s what we thought, we thought, ‘Wow.'”

But some of their friends didn’t show. ‘I don’t know just laziness I guess. They’re always like, I don’t know who to vote for. I don’t like either candidate,” said Veda Shenoy.

The new Texas Media and Society Survey by the Annette Strauss Institute polled more than 1,000 Texans. The results show people over 30 still vote around 20 percent more than younger voters in presidential elections.

The main drivers for young people staying home were not enough information, a notion their vote doesn’t matter and a belief they have no say in government.

But Dominique Paderin says when the election is closer, more of her peers show. “This election is very relevant because so many people are interested in being a part of it and are actually going out to vote.”

Jay Jennings, post-doctoral research fellow for the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life, explained, “More young people need to understand  the power of their vote only works when they vote. They cannot wait for politicians to choose to listen. Young voters need to  force them to listen. If less than a third of millennials believe they have a say in government, then it is no surprise they vote at such a low level.”

Data from our media partners at the Texas Tribune found less than a quarter of adults under 25 in Texas voted in the last presidential campaign. That’s compared to 70 percent of Texans who voted that were 65 and older.

That same poll also looked at the race in the 2012 election.They found more Black adults voted in Texas than any other race with more than 61 percent, but both whites and Hispanics cast more ballots than the 2008 election. Still, millions of white and Hispanic adults did not vote in the last election.

Political campaigns will still try and tap into undecided voters. The last few days of this campaign could always be the exception to the rule. Jennings said, “I really hope their turnout reflects the work that has been done and the importance of Tuesday.” 

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