November 6th, 2018 – Midterm elections were underway all around the nation. Social media campaigns were issued to prompt voting, celebrities endorsed candidates and anyone and everyone was begging people to vote. The question, however, remains: did young people actually vote?
It is still too early to definitively tell the number of people who voted. Demographics like voter turnout are hard to precisely determine, but predictions and current data show positive outcomes. According to The New York Times, in an article published November 9th, there was an overall 138.8 million person increase in turnout. This was the first time that voter turnout for a midterm election topped 100 million; the last time voter turnout was this high was in 1970. The increase in voter turnout is attributed to the competitive races in some states, the diversity of the candidates on the ballots and the issues presented to voters.
According to the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), which has a branch on the Queens College Campus, 4,160,000 people were registered to vote in New York City but only 1,035,932 actually did so in 2014. In 2018, 4,613,320 people were registered and a projected 1,951,714 voted. This means there were about 900,000 more people who came out to the polls. Ballots are still being counted, so that number might even increase.
This trend might correlate to the increase of campaigning on social media. Many celebrities, like Taylor Swift, urged fans to “go out and vote.” On social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, ads were displayed to users urging them to vote. Today, an estimated 86 percent of people aged 18-29, more people than ever before, were seeing these ads on a daily basis. According to Quartz, Instagram made an “I Voted” sticker electronically. The “I Voted” sticker has been given out since 1980 to show solidarity between the American people during election season; it is a way of showing that you, the citizen, took a stance. This trend has now transitioned onto social media, with young voters posting photos of their “I Voted” stickers using various hashtags. People used their influence on social media to urge their friends and family to vote this midterm election and it just might have worked.
When asked why voter turnout increased, Queens College student Abraham Oh, an applied math major and sophomore, stated, “I think that voter turnout was especially high this year because of organizations like NYPIRG and the Andrew Goodman foundation which strived to register people to vote. Especially in this day and age, there were a lot of media campaigns as well and applications like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat encouraged people to vote. No only that, but there were links provided by NYPIRG, the Andrew Goodman foundation, and social media platforms that gave information about the different parties running, as well as where a voter’s poll site is located.” Mr. Oh also stated, “I voted because midterm elections [are] extremely important and deal with issues that impact our day-to-day lives. History was made this year with a variety of different people from different backgrounds becoming elected to be our representatives.”
Not all voters shared Mr. Oh’s reasons for going to the polls. Freshmen Lucas Vazquez, a nutrition and exercise science major, stated, “[I voted] to reduce Republican power in the government.” Mr. Vazquez suggested more young people voted because “Younger people decided that the [midterm] election was more important than ever. I think a lot of it has to do with [President] Trump.”
Even though voter turnout hit an all-time high, not all eligible voters went to the polls. Queens College sophomore Gennesis Izquierdo, a psychology major, didn’t vote. She stated, “The reason I didn’t vote was that I wasn’t politically aware. My vote counts, so why would I vote with having no knowledge of who I’m voting for and why they stand for [their positions]?”
Even though it is still too early to definitively tell, it is at least clear that more young people voted in this midterm election than any other before. It might have been because of celebrity endorsement and social media campaigns, but the fact still remains, young people went out to vote and did their civic duty as citizens. Great job, everyone!