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Voices of Voters: Millennials Want Both Presidential Candidates to Earn Their Vote

photo of Ohio State Students in a movie theater

Millennial voters are tied with Baby Boomers as the largest single group of potential voters. The Pew Research Center says the U.S. has 69 million people between 18 and 39, which makes up 31 percent of the voting-age population in America.

But they’re the least likely to vote. In this installment of the Statehouse News Bureau’s series featuring voices of voters, correspondent Andy Chow talks to younger voters about their issues, and whether they’re motivated to turn out this time.

An enthusiastic crowd packed a Columbus movie theater, eagerly waiting to watch the presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. This crowd, which was heavy on the pro-Clinton side, treated the debate like a spectator sport.

Support among young voters for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is still having an effect on the presidential race.

They laughed. They booed. And they cheered.

This viewing party was at the Gateway Film Center just outside of Ohio State University’s main campus. These events, which include cocktails, beer and popcorn, have become gathering places for young voters from Columbus who want a unique debate watching experience. And the millennial vote is a hot commodity.

Kaitlyn Murray is a 26-year-old graduate student at OSU. She says those kinds of numbers could be a turning point for her generation.

“I think there’s a fantastic opportunity to mobilize young people especially now as millennials are forces within the workplace. I think that anyone who underestimates the power of a millennial is making a grave mistake.”

Murray says two issues she and her friends want to see addressed are college affordability and the need to cut down on student debt.

'...no one's thinking about what's going to help the greater good [as] opposed to what you just see.'

Julie Powell, a 33-year-old who supports Clinton, says raising the minimum wage is one priority for her. She adds that there’s another pressing issue as more people in her age group start to have children: paid family leave.

Powell's friend, 26-year-old Nikkki Freman, agrees.

“Maternity leave. Paternity leave. Right? In terms of trying to reassess our gender roles in terms of child care and things like that.”

The latest Quinnipiac poll shows that Clinton is polling at 48% among millennial voters. This was a group that never really went for Donald Trump but, until recently, was spread out more evenly among Libertarian Gary Johnson and the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

Additionally, support among young voters for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is still having an effect on the presidential race.

Twenty-one-year-old Republican Madi Gomez finds herself undecided. She’s for fiscally conservative approaches to fixing the economy but has trouble wrapping her head around voting for Trump. Gomez says younger voters, especially college students, may have more power this election, but they haven’t been exposed to life in the workforce outside of lower paying jobs.

“So we aren’t really questioning anything about taxes and I think everyone wants to do the right thing, but no one’s thinking about what’s going to help the greater good [as] opposed to what you just see.”

It’s safe to say the candidates will continue their efforts to drive voter turnout by addressing issues that are important to younger voters, such as race relations, income inequality and climate change.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.