For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Aug 18 2016
by Madeleine Williamson

Who Students Are Voting For

By Madeleine Williamson - Aug 18 2016

College students’ votes could be important this election. 75.4 million Americans fall between ages 18 and 34, USA Today reported Monday. This means that Millennials - including college students - now outnumber Baby Boomers. Issues important to students, like tuition costs and student debt, have been prominent. One delegate at the Republican National Convention was even a college student.

Their numbers are large and they've been vocal in the campaign so far, so it's no wonder that everyone wants to know how college students will vote. So how will we vote? A recent USA Today/Rock the Vote poll reveals some solid numbers.

Half of Millennials Will Vote for Hillary...

Young voters are often thought to skew liberal, and the poll shows that to be the case this year. 50% of voters ages 18-34 plan to vote for Hillary Clinton. Although some young people supported Clinton from the outset, many supported Sen. Bernie Sanders. Young voters fueled his successes in the primaries. They may be less enthusiastic about the nominee, yet young Democrats seem to be sticking with the party. 72% of young voters who supported Sanders will vote for Clinton.

One such voter expressed a common sentiment among former Sanders supporters voting for Clinton. “I'm voting for Hillary. But it's not for her campaign, her beliefs or her ideals, it's because Trump cannot win. Had Sanders been given the same opportunities as Clinton, he would have won the election,” Mandy Gillis, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Georgia, said in an interview.


...And That's Pretty Unusual.

Before Bernie, young voters fueled Obama’s wins in 2008 and 2012. He won them over his Republican opponents by double digits in both elections. This year could be the first time Democrats have won the youth vote by double digits three times in a row since 1952. That’s what makes this year so interesting. College students actually tend to vote along party lines, just like their older counterparts. Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush won the youth vote in landslides in 1984 and 1998, respectively.

Voting Against, Not For

Many collegiates will still be casting their votes for Trump. 18% of those polled planned to vote for the Republican candidate. But like Democrats, some Trump voters supported other candidates in their party’s primary.

“At first I supported Ben Carson, and when he dropped out, I was supporting Ted Cruz, and I wasn’t left with much when he left,” Serena Potter, a 19-year-old Purdue University student, said to USA Today. “If there was a gun to my head, I’d say Trump. … He is better than Hillary.”

On both sides of the aisle, voters are motivated largely to keep the other candidate from winning. 54 percent of Trump voters said they were voting to keep Clinton out of the White House. 51 percent of Clinton voters said the same thing of Trump.


Time will tell how many college students head to the polls in November. But the polls reveal quite a bit about how they’ll vote.

Lead image credit: Elliott Stallion on Unsplash.

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Madeleine Williamson - DePaul University

Madeleine Williamson is a freshman at DePaul University majoring in journalism and minoring in political science and Spanish. She loves tea, stationery and exploring her new hometown of Chicago.

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