On November 6, 2018, America will go to the polls to vote in the first major election under the Trump Administration. With fifteen million new eligible voters and a spike in political activity among younger Americans, college students, and young voters in general have become a massive focus this election cycle. What does the potentially most influential voting group think about the midterm elections? University of Chicago students from a variety of academic disciplines, political affiliations, and states, met with The Gate to share their opinions on the upcoming election.
The Gate: To first-time voters: how do you feel about being able to vote in this election?
“I feel very proud and privileged to be able to vote.” – Karina Melnik, first year, Public Policy Major, registered Republican, New York
“It's fun to feel like I'm participating because I used to comment a lot about it. ‘Oh, I like what our Congressman was doing. Or, oh, I don't like that!’ Now I can actually make a difference.” – Rory Gates, first year, Political Science Major, not registered with a party, Washington
Gate: The eligible voter turnout for midterm elections in the United States averages around 40 percent. The numbers are far worse on college campuses—only 18 percent of college students voted in the 2014 midterm election. You’ve indicated, however, that you are headed to the polls this November. What motivates you to make the effort to go out and vote?
“It is a civic duty and I don't know, never really thought about it much beyond [that]. [You] gotta go vote [and] make sure your voice is heard.” - Kyle Simpson, fourth year, Math Major, registered Democrat, Delaware
“Largely, I feel I have a civic obligation. I also feel that I recognize that though my vote is small, it does count, and I hopefully can support causes that add value to [my state] and to the nation as a whole.” – Gabe Morrison, second year, Environmental and Urban Studies Major, registered Democrat, Arizona
“I want to be a part of change. I don’t agree with anything Cruz or Greg Abbott stand for and I no longer want them determining what they believe to be right for Texas.” – Becca Cruz, second year, Neuroscience/Psychology Major, registered Democrat, Texas
“While I don’t believe that my vote will make much of a difference as the majority of voters in my state will be voting on the Democratic ballot, I believe that voting is an essential responsibility of being an American citizen. This belief in the cultural, societal, and political significance of voting is what drives me to go out and vote.” – Karina Melnik
Gate: Are there any agendas or policies that you want candidates to focus on or that have caught your attention?
“Education reform, [specifically] early childhood development.” - Kyle Simpson
“I am most excited about Proposition 127 [in Arizona] which is that by 2030, 50 percent of our energy would come from renewable sources.” – Gabe Morrison
“In terms of the midterms, I would say holding the administration accountable. [Another] big issue is election security. Thankfully, Congress is already doing some work in that area. But to me, it is criminal how little effort has been put into election security…The administration just finalized its cyber security plan for the midterms several days ago and that [should have been] done over a year ago.” – Rory Gates
“Gun rights and limited government spending.” – Nathan Buffington, second year, Economics Major, not registered with a party, Georgia
“Affordable healthcare…A majority of the citizens in the United States cannot afford necessary medication or doctors’ appointments. Women have trouble with accessing affordable healthcare, such as cancer screenings, abortions and birth control. These issues are immense and have to be solved in a way where the stress placed upon these affected people is not forgotten.” – Becca Cruz
“School surveillance, gun control, and education reform.” – Karina Melnik
“Civil rights are being attacked from every side on topics ranging from the right to choose to the right to exist. Environmental regulations are being shed faster than a duck sheds water…” – Christina Stebbins, third year, Double Major in Chemistry and Fundamentals: Issues and Texts, registered Democrat, Illinois
Gate: Why do you believe that the 2018 midterm elections specifically are important?
“They determine the policy direction of the next two years.” – Daniel, first year, Economics Major, registered Republican, Missouri
“I do think climate change is pressing. The New York Times just came out with a big article about that and you know…the sooner the better on that front.” - Gabe Morrison
“It will determine the course of the next two years of the Trump Administration. Will he do whatever he wants, and…continue to be unchecked or will there be some accountability?” – Rory Gates
“These midterms offer the chance to reign in Trump and the Republicans’ wreckage of a government. It is also the first real chance since the 2016 election that the people can affect a significant change in the political atmosphere.” – Christina Stebbins
Gate: Given the surge of public activism amongst young adults (Women’s March, March for Our Lives, MeToo Movement), have you noticed any shifts in the minds of college students (or young people in general) concerning politics and voting?
“I've definitely noticed a difference. People are less willing to express the sentiment that they don't feel like politics matters. Everyone now has an opinion or is working to become informed on issues like #MeToo or gun control and I think that's a very…positive thing." – Rory Gates
“Most of my peers, even those who have participated in marches and social movements, feel undermotivated regarding voting and will likely not vote this year.” – Karina Melnik
“I have not noticed any shifts [in] particular…maybe a few more [college students] are voting.” – Nathan Buffington
“It seems to me that people my age are now more interested in participating in politics in order to share their opinions and show their support for those they believe to share their opinions. With these movements, people are more willing to participate and realize that their voice can be heard. I’d like to think that we are being much more aware of how voting or not voting affects us all.” – Becca Cruz
“I have noticed the conservatives become more conservative and liberals either drifting all the way left or settling for a more moderate appeal to the conservative’s attitude.” – Christina Stebbins
Gate: Do you have any final thoughts as we near election day?
“I'm ready to get my ballot and send it in.”- Kyle Simpson
“Bipartisan [legislation] is possible…I would hope people can be friends with people of different political views than themselves…People [should] have a higher tolerance for spending time around people with whom they disagree. People need to have a higher tolerance to dialogue with, spending time around, and being friends with people from opposing parties.” – Gabe Morrison
“I hope that people my age continue to voice their opinion through the action of voting. We are the change and the greatest way we can do change is by voting.” – Becca Cruz
“I can sit here and attack the Republican and Democratic parties for fully legitimate reasons… Anyone who says [voting] is a choice between two evils encourages voter apathy and the demonization of people who aren’t perfect in our government.” – Christina Stebbins
The featured image is courtesy of Claire Cappeart.