By Megan O’Brien & Sophie Cannon, news staff
As the presidential election season comes to a close, college students must decide which candidate to cast their ballot for on Nov. 8, if they vote at all. Many young Republicans, dubbed the “Never Trumpers,” have expressed dissatisfaction with their party’s nominee, Donald J. Trump. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton meanwhile has struggled to inspire college-aged liberals to declare they’re #WithHer, although a recently released Harvard University poll shows she has captured most of the youth vote.
Harvard’s Institute of Politics published the results of a national survey of 18 to 29-year-old likely voters on Wednesday, Oct. 26. Of the 2,150 people polled, 49 percent said they were voting for Clinton. Trump garnered 21 percent of the vote, trailing Clinton by 28 percentage points.
Green Party candidate Jill Stein and Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson received 5 and 14 percent of the youth vote respectively, and 11 percent remained undecided.
“More [of my friends] are for Clinton, especially those who live in swing states,” said Oliver Fishstein, a junior combined computer science and computer engineering major. “Others feel like they can vote more third party in a state that doesn’t fluctuate. They’re voting for a third party because they’re not worried about their state going red.”
Clinton beat out Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, a candidate whom many liberal millennials threw their support behind, for the Democratic nomination in July. While Sanders and his progressive policies created a devoted crowd of young supporters, many Democratic-leaning students said they are looking for more causes they’re passionate about in Clinton’s campaign.
“[Clinton] has good policies for people our age, but she can’t take our votes for granted,” said Victor Vuong, a senior political science major and president of the Boston University College Democrats. “I think she needs to speak to the policies that we care about and tell us how she’s going to improve our lives.”
Some millennials may not be voting for Clinton because young voters are more likely to attach themselves to a particular cause rather than a candidate, said Noorya Hayat, a researcher at Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
“There’s no quintessential young American,” Hayat said.
Vuong said he noticed issues regarding higher education, the economy and social justice appear to be the most important to the collegiate voter.
Gaby Thurston, a junior psychology major, said she is more likely to support a candidate who cares about issues that are important to her.
“Personalities of politicians play so much of a role around the dialogue of an election [but] […] that doesn’t matter for the decisions that are going to affect people’s lives,” said Thurston, who identified as a liberal voter.
The Republican party is mirroring this dilemma to an even more extreme, as rallying behind Trump has proven to be a difficult for many conservative students.
Joe Frissora, the president of the Northeastern College Republicans, said the Republican party split was present in the club.
“There is an anti-Trump presence,” said Frissora, a third-year civil engineering major. “As president, that makes it hard sometimes and we’ve had a couple heated moments during club meetings.”
Some club members asserted that Trump doesn’t embody the values of their party.
“Trump is not a conservative. So if you consider yourself a conservative, I would consider another candidate, no matter who it may be,” said Zachary Rex, a freshman physics major and club member. “In terms of having Laissez-faire social policy and making up for taxes with spending when needed, Hillary Clinton may be more of a conservative than Donald Trump is.”
Noah Tagliaferri, a club member and a freshman majoring in computer science, said the split could be a valuable learning moment.
“The last time the party had to reflect on itself was with [President Richard] Nixon, and I think the party came out stronger after that and presented one of the strongest candidates for president ever which was Ronald Reagan,” he said. “So I hope the party will come out stronger as a result of this.”
Some of the energy and participation by young people in both the Democratic and Republican parties have dispersed into different camps such as the Libertarian party.
“I think with regards to Northeastern students, people will definitely vote third party,” Frissora said. “There are a decent amount of Gary Johnson supporters in the club.”
Libertarian National Committee member James Lark III said he noticed an upsurge in interest for the party on college campuses.
“In the past when we had Libertarian presidential campaigns, I had a larger role in going out and helping to find students who would lead a campus organization,” said Lark, who coordinates Libertarian organizations on college campuses. “This year, I was approached by two students who wanted to start a Students for Johnson group.”
Lark said while students often say they will cast votes for Clinton or Trump because they strongly dislike the opposing side, the ones in support of Johnson seem to genuinely want to vote for him.
“In this election, I don’t think [people are voting] because they’re excited about a candidate, like for Obama,” Fishstein said. “But more out of fear of what will happen if they don’t vote.”
Regardless of the candidates, young voters are notorious for staying home on Election Day. Still, Hayat said while it is hard to call, she is hopeful there will be an increase in millennials boasting “I Voted” stickers this year. Overall turnout during the primaries was just 1.9 percent behind the 2008 record, according to a Pew Research Center study, and more people are expected to vote in the general election.
“I do believe that if morally you just can’t agree with any candidate that’s out there, I would encourage you to write in someone that you feel would do a good job,” Tagliaferri said.
Rex urged students to dispel the perception of millennials as politically disengaged.
“If you’re going to vote, hey, you’re at least voting so whatever you want to do with it, you can make it strategic,” he said.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons