With Youth Turnout Historically Low, Will 2020 Be Any Different?

Generation Z has made its landfall into society, and ever since the 2016 elections, teens across the world have stepped up and started taking action against social injustices and political issues. 

However, will the youth turnout increase in the 2020 primary elections? 

According to 22-year-old William Zellin, the youth voter turnout will be high. The political science and statistics major is the President of Students for Bernie on UF campus, and says that young people see through a lot of nonsense that a lot of politicians put forward. 

“I think that voter turnout will be high, or will be high throughout the Democratic primary, and hopefully in the general election as well under Bernie Sanders as the Democratic nominee, because I believe that he would inspire young people to turn out and come to polls,” Zellin said. 

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE) at UF, student voter registration had gone up by 4080 people from 2012 to 2016. Similarly, the number of students who voted in 2012 compared to 2016 increased by 4,797. 

Zellin says he thinks young people see through the nonsense that some politicians put forward, and this can create voter apathy issues because they feel like the candidates aren’t fighting for them. In his opinion, this is why he thinks Bernie Sanders is a good candidate, because he fights for issues lots of students and young people care about and resonate with. 

“I think Bernie Sanders is popular with young people because he does speak to issues, like climate change and healthcare, that many students and young people are dealing with.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, among 18- to 29-year-olds, voter turnout went from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018, the largest percentage point increase for any age group — a 79 percent jump.

Similar to Zellin, Ryan Skinner, a 21-year-old political science junior, says that all elections are important, whether it's local or presidential. 

“When it comes to students actually turning out to vote, it's a lot easier to sell a presidential election,” Skinner said. 

Skinner is in College Democrats and says local elections are very important because there are a lot of local issues that will or could directly affect students. 

“Having your voice heard in local elections is especially important, considering students could run the city of Gainesville, because we have roughly 35,000 undergraduate students alone on campus and 50,000 total. If we all just, voted and coordinated our votes then we would outvote the city of Gainesville. Not that this is necessarily a good or bad thing, but it just shows the true power that students have as far as your voting power in local elections.”

Bruce Glasserman, a second year political science major, says he wants to hope young people will show up to the polls, but isn’t sure this is true. 

“As we saw in 2015, there was an increase, but with this primary, I think people are more engaged but this doesn’t mean there will be a significant increase in youth voter turnout,” Glasserman said. 

Glasserman took part in starting Students for Biden on campus, and says he feels Biden has a good chance of winning.