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YOUTH & THE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE

The young adult take on tonight’s presidential debate

In the last few weeks, many organizations introduced initiatives aimed at encouraging young people to vote. From influencer PSAs to in-store voter registration and social media ads to voter merch, the ‘Get out the Vote’ message for young adults is loud and clear this year. But are young people actually planning on going to the polls? How will they be participating in the election? What do they hope to see from the candidates? We asked young adults from our Cassandra Collective about the election and whether they would be tuning in to tonight’s debate. The insights below are based on discussions from within the last week.

YOUNG ADULT ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ELECTION

Young adults have proven in the past that they are the least likely cohort to show up at the polls for general elections, but many are wondering if 2020 will be the turning point for youth participation. According to census data from the Brookings Institution, Millennials and Gen Zs make up 37% of eligible voters this year (nearly the equal share of eligible voters as Baby Boomers and their elders), meaning their participation could truly sway the outcome of the election. Many young adults that Cassandra spoke with have already reported engagement with the upcoming election (such as registering to vote, applying for an absentee ballot, and following the news). However, apathy is still evident, with some still feeling their individual votes just don’t make a difference.

  • “I believe as an up-and-coming member of society it is important for me to know what is going on in politics and in society.” - Grace, 16, PA

  • “I have been watching as much as possible for this election in November.” - Barbara, 31, GA

  • “I watch the news and am a registered voter and have applied for my absentee ballot.” - Kathryn, 33, CT

  • “[I] don’t really care. [I’m] not a fan of bickering politicians.” - Nicole, 27, PA

  • “I have been watching the presidential election on the news quite closely as I think it’s important for Americans to do their own research for this election.” - Daphne, 34, CA

WILL THEY WATCH THE DEBATE?

We wanted to learn if young people had plans to watch tonight’s presidential debate between President Trump and Democractic nominee Joe Biden. Many of them said they plan to tune in, while others don’t have any interest. Given that several respondents had already made a firm decision about who they plan on voting for, they felt watching the debate was not worthwhile, as it wouldn’t change their decision. However, some respondents are unsure of who to vote for and hope that the debate will provide insight into each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as dive deeper into their policies.

  • “I plan to watch the debate because I'm curious how it goes.” - Robert, 29, WI

  • “I did not even know there was a presidential debate on September 29.” - Ian, 34, CA

  • “Yes, I do [plan to watch the debate]. I believe that this will give me a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses both candidates have.” - Grace, 16, PA

  • “Yes, [I do plan to watch the debate]. I want to stay informed on how the candidates are addressing issues.” - Kathryn, 33, CT

  • “No, [I do not plan to watch the debate]. I don’t want to get myself upset about what’s out of my control.” - Stephanie, 33, NJ

  • “No, I do not [plan to watch the debate]. My vote realistically doesn't matter at all.” - Josh, 29, KY

  • “I think I know who I am going to vote for in the election. It’s unlikely the debate will influence [my decision].” - Jen, 32, CT

  • “I have an idea who I will vote for, but it could always change if the other side speaks on the topics I care about.” - Robert, 29, WI

WHAT THEY HOPE TO SEE

We asked Millennials and Gen Zs which topics they are most interested in hearing about from presidential candidates. Equal justice has become a priority for young people today, and they want to hear how candidates plan to protect the civil rights of all citizens regardless of race, gender, and economic status.

  • “I really want to hear about how they plan on giving equal rights to everyone. This includes not only civil rights, but in the workplace, health care, housing, etc.” - Grace, 16, PA

  • “[I want to hear] about topics like education, the economy, how to tackle this coronavirus, how to restart our economy, and people getting jobs and being able to afford to live, to make this country be more at peace.” - Victor, 15, IL

  • “In most elections, I'm interested in hearing about climate change, civil rights/social policy, economic reform and regulations, and international relations… I already know what their stances are so I don't really think I need to know more.” - Melissa, 22, FL

  • “[I want to hear about] healthcare, the pandemic treatment/plan, human rights issues, and the Supreme Court judge recommendation.” - Kathryn, 33, CT

  • “[I want to hear their] plans for the nation’s economy, trade deals, if there will be any talk on police reform, the protests, the pandemic, and college education.” - Robert, 29, WI

  • “I am not interested in hearing anything from either Trump or Biden.” - Ian, 34, CA