This semester I took on the task of studying the political habits of millennials and young voters. I began to investigate the role they play in politics and the presidency. In a world where millennials, aged 18 through 29 years old, are considered by some to be unskilled, inexperienced and uninformed, I wanted to see why so many articles (like this one on Independent Voter Project) said millennials would be the deciding factor in the 2016 presidential election.

The major reason that America was putting attention on the young voter population was because they are now the largest and most diverse population in America, according to the Pew Research Center. The next question I had to considered was would this group of people would turnout and use their voting power the same way they did in 2008.

For myself, I believed that young voters would show up and overwhelmingly vote for Hillary Clinton, especially after Bernie Sanders endorsed her. Even those who weren’t politically engaged would vote against Donald J. Trump. To my disbelief, as I conducted my first round of research on why or if African-American students would vote, many of the students I interviewed expressed that that they would vote because of ancestral struggles to secure their right to vote, but a few expressed they wouldn’t vote at all.

Then I found that young voters, like in 2012, were showing a increasing trend of not being enthusiastic about the election. Obama’s speech to young black voters urging them to vote lead me to the question: if young voters don’t plan to use their voting power to elect a president where would it go? Social Activism.

A report by Applied Research on Race Forward entitled “Millennials, Activism, and Race” explains how millennials are using activism as a way to politically engage through different forms of activism including racial activism and the occupy movement.

Many young people are influenced to become involved in social activist groups, which push them toward politically engagement based on their upbringing, “Millennials, Activism and Race” report stated. My individual reporting proved that fact to be true as the youngest position holder in the Charlotte Uprisiing movement, Elanara Mendoza, 16, got involved with social activism and political engagement after her father was shot by police. Her mother, too, is a social activist.

Though, young voters are influenced by their households in their political engagement and views, Reason-Rupe 2014 survey shows that millennials tend to change their party identification and political views based on the following factors: social economics, race, college education, and whether they are home or car owners. Young voters tend to be more liberal, even though those aged 18 to 29 years old are overwhelmingly Democratic, the report says. It goes on to say that when students begin college they are Democratic and when they become property owners they identify as Republican.

Within my research I found that young voters aren’t just diverse in race and but in their way of engaging in politics. They aren’t bound to a presidential party or a way of engaging.

Millennials didn’t save Hillary Clinton in battleground states like they once had for President Barack Obama, but CIRCLE reports that an estimated 24 million young voters did turnout in the 2016 presidential election.

You can’t determine an election’s outcome based upon one group of people, but voter maps show that millennials did cast the majority of their votes for Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, President-elect Donald J. Trump captured the votes of voters who have gone overlooked in recent elections.  


–Shantel Pettway