At this point in the election cycle, it’s almost impossible to drown out media coverage and water cooler conversations about the candidates. While this year might be different than most due to the sheer number of salacious headlines, what will likely remain the same is that few young people will turn out to vote.
According to Pew Research, in 2012, millennials aged 18-29 made up over 19% of the electorate – but only 46% of them showed up to cast their ballots. This is a big problem. When groups of people don’t vote, politicians are generally less likely to create policy proposals in their election platforms to address that group’s concerns. They’re also less likely to take action on issues that matter to that group after being elected since it makes more sense for them to concentrate on the concerns of those who show up to vote.
Politicians Listen to Voters
In the US, that has historically been baby boomers, who show up in large numbers to vote and who have greatly outnumbered all other demographics. In 2012, for example, baby boomers were 38% of the electorate and a whopping 69% of them voted.
Unfortunately, there is only so much money available for new programs, and so when candidates are creating their policy platforms they have to make difficult choices about which policy proposals to include. They generally focus on the needs and desires of the demographic that is most likely to vote for them.
That’s meant that few politicians have really taken action on the issues facing millennial grads or done anything to reduce the amount of student loan debt they graduate with. Essentially the fact that millennials don’t vote has meant that the student loan problem has been left to just get worse.
Millennials Could Become the Most Powerful Voting Group
But that might be poised to change. The millennial demographic currently rivals the size of baby boomers and could become an important voting bloc. Because more millennials have reached voting age since 2016 and more baby boomers have passed away, both groups currently comprise about 31% of the electorate. That means that millennials have the power to shift this election and will only continue to gain electoral sway as they get older.
For this reason, it’s not surprising that both major presidential candidates have looked at the issue of student loans and spoken about what they would like to do to address the student loan crisis if they’re elected. It appears that they’re betting that student loans will be an important issue that could swing this election by motivating millennial voters to go to the polls for the first time.
Will Millennials Vote?
But will millennials be marking their ballots come November? According to a new survey by CampusBooks.com, 82% of college students were worried about their student loans and only 53% were planning on being active this election season.
That gap is a problem. It could mean that politicians won’t take Gen Y’s issues seriously in future elections. In fact, there are a few scenarios in which we might see young voter turnout be even worse this election. For one thing, many millennials are tuning out of this election because of the toxic atmosphere. Others could stay home if one candidate pulls out so far ahead that they start thinking that their vote won’t matter.
Vote For Student Loans
But I would argue that if you care about student loans and reducing student loan debt, then you have to get out and vote this election. By doing so, you are sending a message that the issues that millennials face are important and should be addressed.
It’s not just important that millennials vote in the presidential election. They also should start voting during the mid-term elections and during state elections. These are also important elections where millennials have the power to shift the debate to student loans and state college financing and force politician to alleviate the debt burden that so many millennials face.
I encourage you to register to vote and get out on Election Day to cast your ballot – especially if you have a significant amount of loans or if you worry about going into debt in the future. Learn about both Trump’s income-driven repayment program revisions and privatization rumors and Clinton’s entrepreneurial and student loan refinancing policies. Compare them to the current system. Decide which one sounds better to you. Even if you don’t feel passionately about either candidate, your vote means that your voice will be listened to in the future on student loans and other issues that matter.
Do you want your kids to take out student loans with the government or private lenders and banks? Do you want your kids (and you) to have to pay for college at all - or would you rather it come out of everyone's taxes? There are many questions to be answered and now is your chance to answer these questions.