Presidential hopefuls gear up for another race, attempt to connect with millenials

As the nation prepares to cast ballots on Nov. 8, the race for the presidency is beginning to take shape.

Democratic candidates currently running for presidency include former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Governor of Maryland Martin O’Malley and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Twelve candidates are in the race as Republicans with Donald Trump, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida leading in the polls.

According to a study by the U.S. Census Bureau, the voting participation percentage for 18 to 24 year olds rose between 2000 and 2008, but dropped drastically between 2008 and 2012. Political science professor Thomas Brunell said he believes this election could show a similar trend to the previous one.

“We’re kind of reverting back to pre-Obama numbers,” he said. “It depends on who the Republicans nominate. I assume they’re going to nominate a straight-forward political type like Jeb Bush, and that’s just going to be another Bush versus Clinton election.”

Brunell said millennials have always had a small showing within the eligible electorate on voting day and this year will be no different because there is not much spicing up the current election.

“If Trump gets the nomination and he continues to be crazy, maybe that will be a driving force for more people to turn out, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” he said.

Although young people haven’t actively voted in the past, Brunell explained that it doesn’t mean they’re apathetic to political affairs.

“They involve themselves (and) participate in non-traditional ways like volunteering, like engaging in protests (and through) social media,” he said. “But as people get older, they vote more.”

The 2016 election is shaping up to be centered on economic issues as 86 percent of Americans polled by Gallup on last May ranked it their primary concern. However, political science junior Nancy Fairbank, who spent the fall semester in Washington D.C. with the Archer Fellowship Program, pointed out that social issues like criminal justice, gun control, LGBT rights and abortion will be what determine the way college students vote.


“I think right now there is a lot of activism going on on college campuses that is going to encourage students to go out and (participate) in the election,” Fairbank said.

Racial issues haven’t had as big an impact on UTD’s campus as they have in schools like the University of Missouri, where hunger strikes and boycotts by the football team were organized to fight against concerns of racism brought up by Mizzou  Student Body President Payton Head. However, Fairbank said that discrimination can impact another big demographic at UTD — international students.

“It’s difficult because our international students don’t have a say in the national elections, so it’s up to us as native students to go to the polls and support them,” she said.

The rise of ISIS is another key issue, as acts of terrorism have brought backlash against Muslims within the country, with the Council on American-Islamic Relations documenting at least 42 instances of anti-Muslim violence after the Paris attacks.

“We are at the potential brink of another war depending on what the next president decides to do (about ISIS), and if we entered another war it would be our generation fighting that war and dealing with the economic repercussions,” Fairbank said.

Brunell said college students’ attention has been roused by Senator Sanders’ proposals to make public universities free of cost and to raise the minimum wage, but he doesn’t believe Sanders’ ideas are realistic.

“It doesn’t sound feasible to me,” he said. “The states have been cutting back on how much money they give to state universities, so that’s necessitated an increase in tuition. I’ve looked a little bit at his proposals. If somebody tallied up his proposals, this would cost $18 trillion — which is a lot of money.”

Despite his far-fetched policy proposals, Sanders is able to garner support among young voters because of how he makes them feel, Fairbank said.

“I think sometimes what’s more important in an election than just specific policies is generally how a candidate inspires the American people,” she said. “Some people would disagree with that and say we should focus more on specific policies, but you never know what’s going to happen with policies in Congress.”

Brunell drew on examples of extreme candidates from past elections like Barry Goldwater in 1964 and George McGovern in 1972 who experienced landslide losses because of their far-right and far-left platforms to explain why individuals like Trump, Cruz and Sanders may not make it to the general election.

“Cruz is a little too far right and Sanders is a little too far left,” he said. “These people usually don’t get the nomination.”

Fairbank said that she found it surprising that, as a liberal, she was able to agree on a number of topics with her conservative peers in her courses as an Archer Fellow.

“We agreed on gun control issues (and) issues of student activism on campuses,” she said. “We really seemed to agree on a lot more than politicians on a national level are agreeing on. Hopefully our votes will affect that.”


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