Monday, April 23, 2018
Politics

Lack of enthusiasm may depress millennial vote

TAMPA — Dezray Smith is certain she'll cast a ballot sometime between now and Election Day.

But exactly for whom she's voting — well, that's still up in the air.

The University of South Florida sophomore said neither Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton nor her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, exude the "authenticity" she is looking for in a candidate.

"I don't get authenticity when I see them speak," Smith said. "It's almost like they're speaking because they have to."

Hence, there's no excitement in participating in this year's election, a major letdown since this will be the first year that Smith, 19, can vote.

And she isn't alone in her disdain for this year's presidential election.

Millennials are among the majority of eligible voters, but the generation's turnout rate is the lowest among that group, according to an analysis of census data by Pew Research Center.

In short, millennials make up one of the largest voting blocs but it's not a guarantee they'll show up en masse at the polls.

This behavior falls in line with this generation's general mistrust of big institutions and systems, said Republican pundit and pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson.

For example, millennials identify as spiritual or religious but may not align with a specific denomination, said Anderson, a millennial herself who discussed her generation's voting trends during a recent lecture at USF.

Police and media are other institutions that millennials keep at arm's length thanks to scandal and increased transparency, she said.

"We believe that institutions have to earn it," said Anderson, author of The Selfie Vote: Where Millennials Are Leading America. "People have to earn our trust, we just don't give it."

Aversion to labeling is another reason millennials are absent from the voting booth, Anderson said.

Millennials want proof that something is effective and makes for positive change.

For them, the argument is not whether government is too big or too small, but whether it's effective and efficient, Anderson said.

"It's about taking what we have and making it better," she said.

Despite appearing apathetic, critics should not be so quick to write millennials off, as they "have the potential to really turn the election on its head," Anderson said.

"Our generation is about more than selfies," she said.

Kylee Pelletier, 21, also plans to vote, but like Smith, isn't too enthused by either candidate partly because "they're not reaching the millennial generation," she said.

"I do like some of the things (Trump) says," said Pelletier, who attended the lecture while visiting from Columbus, Ohio. "But then he says something off the charts and I'm like, 'Why did you say that?'"

Anderson said that it's important that millennials like Smith, who do not find the candidates appealing, still participate in the process.

And if they absolutely can't decide between Clinton and Trump or consider voting for either unpalatable, there is another option for them, she said.

"If you want to leave that part of the ballot blank, do it," Anderson said. "There's a lot of other stuff that need your vote."

It's the out that Smith said she needed.

"It takes the frustration out of voting," she said.

Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]

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