By Stephanie Liakos
The majority of college students who are registered to vote report that they will be voting for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election in November, according to a poll by the Washington Post and ABC News.
But young voters might not be choosing Clinton because they actually approve of her, but because they so strongly dislike her major opponent, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
In the poll taken Sept. XX to XX, 42 percent of Millennials who are registered to vote reported that they intend to vote for Clinton in the presidential election. In comparison, 24 percent of Millennials reported that they intend to vote for Trump in the same poll, while about 20 percent of Millennials reported that they intend to vote for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Americans aged 18-24 make up about 10 percent of the country’s population, meaning that young voters could have a significant impact on the election if a majority of the college-aged population choose to vote on November 8. But people aged 18-24 have the lowest voter turnout rates among registered voters, according to the United States Census.
Though Clinton shows higher popularity among college students than other presidential candidates, some Western Michigan University students and faculty suggest that Clinton’s higher ratings among college students may actually have very little to do with her campaigning.
“I wish she would reach out to college students more,” said Brandon Youngblood, a WMU social work major and Clinton supporter. “She is really bad at campaigning.” A large part of Clinton’s appeal is that she is a better alternative to Trump, said Youngblood, who is a junior.
It is possible that Clinton’s popularity could be more greatly affected by a strong disliking of her opponents than by a liking of Clinton. In fact, when some students are asked why they are voting for Clinton, their immediate answer is about Clinton’s opponent, Trump, instead of the candidate herself.
“I’m going to be voting for Hillary Clinton because I think that Donald Trump is an absolute danger to our future,” said WMU student Dakota Torolski, a senior in Interdisciplinary Health Services. “I think that through Trump’s campaign he has demonstrated that he doesn’t understand the issues that the American people are facing.”
Clinton’s popularity among young voters can be attributed partly to the fact that college students are overwhelmingly liberal, according to the Harvard Political Review. That means that at least part of Clinton’s lead in polls among the young demographic is likely due to her stance on issues that are important to college students, such as college affordability.
“She is specifically trying to engage and reach out to young voters, but her policies are the thing that I think are the most engaging to college students,” said Michigan State Rep. Jon Hoadley, a Democrat who is running for reelection. Hoadley believes that Clinton has been successful at directly attracting Millennial voters, such as himself. Hoadley is XX years old.
The 2016 election stands out from others because it is one of the only presidential elections in American history in which both candidates have been largely disliked or distrusted by the American people, said Peter W. Wielhouwer, an associate professor of political science at WMU.
“One of the concerns of those of us that have been around the block a few times is that Millennials will have the impression that this is the way that it always is, but this really is not the way that it has always been,” Wielhouwer said.
In the past, he said, it is more typical of presidential candidates to remain civil, at least in the beginning stages of an election. The level of personal and ugly rhetoric, mostly on Trump’s behalf, is a unique characteristic of this presidential election, said Wielhouwer.
In the 2012 election, according to the U.S. Census, only 43.9 percent of 18-24 year-olds who were registered to vote reported actually voting, compared to 77 percent of 65-74 year-old citizens who were registered. If these rates of voting do not change on November 8, then America’s older generations could be determining the future for today’s college students.
Actress Chole Grace Moretz visited Western Michigan University to promote the Hillary Clinton campaign, in September.