Which Issues Do Young Voters Care About Most?

'I feel like I don't know as much as I'd like to.'

Voter turnout is expected to be massive in 2020 — record-breaking, even.

You can thank 18-year-olds and immigrants for that. They’re the reason there are more and more eligible voters each year, according to The Atlantic.

But it’s not just that there are more young voters. It’s that they’re fired up, too.

Young adults are even feeling more empowered than before — 46 percent of those 15 to 34 now believe they can have a moderate affect on government, an increase over previous years.

Thirty one percent of young eligible voters ages 18 to 29 turned out to vote in the 2018 midterms, the highest turnout in decades. More say they’ll turn out for the 2020 election caucuses and primaries than those who did just four years ago.

[ICYMI: How to Join the Predicted Surge of Young Voters]

Rewire talked to young people at nearby college campuses (we’re based in St. Paul, Minnesota) to find out what they care about as the 2020 presidential election draws nearer — and what they don’t.

Nikhil Khurana and Minh Tu Van are students at the University of Minnesota. Rewire PBS Our Future young voters IssuesCredit: Elle Moulin for Rewire.org

Nikhil Khurana and Minh Tu Van, both 21

Are you registered to vote?

Both: Yes.

Which issues are most important to you?

Khurana: Climate, the student debt crisis. Property, like rent. The income gap.

Van: I think that the income gap, or I guess the social disparities, are really important for me. I also second climate, I think that’s also very important. And then health care equity as well.

Is there a candidate you’re excited about for 2020?

Van: I really like Bernie Sanders. I think he’s really stuck true to what he says, like what he has said in the past. So I think he’ll fight for the causes that also seem important to me.

Khurana: Probably Bernie, I guess. Mostly because he’s the most radical, and I need more radical. Even everything he’s doing is not enough, but it’s better than everyone else.

I guess it’s not a particular this or that, it’s just he’s still trying to work within a capitalist framework. And you kind of have to, I guess, in our current situation. I don’t know what he could be doing better, but I guess I’d like to see a shift from the social norm.

How do you stay informed?

Khurana: I have roommates that are very good at that. I try to read the news more.

Van: For me, Reddit is actually a very big source. I don’t know if it’s a good source, but I actually get a lot of information from there.

(Subreddits) I can think of that have very vague headlines is r/worldnews, so I follow that. I don’t follow r/politics, but I feel like that would be a good subreddit to get information on. Typically for me it is world news.

Van: Being on a college campus, especially like the (University of Minnesota), I think a lot of people are very like-minded. And I haven’t met a lot of people that have strongly different views than me. I know they’re out there, but I haven’t really talked to them.

Khurana: You definitely see people in classes that think differently. There’s no air or space where you can discuss things like that.

Van: Unless it’s prompted in class.

We’re actually taking a course together, that’s why we’re just hanging out here. We’re taking environmental ethics and that’s a philosophy course. And that class is probably the one where we’ve talked about issues or viewpoints that I guess indirectly have to do with politics.

 

Katie Caardal, 21, a college student at the University of St. Thomas. Rewire PBS Our Future Young voters IssuesCredit: Elle Moulin for Rewire.org

Katie Caardal, 21

Are you registered to vote?

Yes.

Do you identify with any political party?

I feel like generally I would say I’m middle-right. My grandparents on both sides are from rural Minnesota, and my grandpa and grandma are both immigrants, so that’s kind of what I grew up in.

Who do you think you’ll vote for in 2020?

I need to actually listen to the debates that have happened. Amy Klobuchar is from around here, and my cousin worked on her campaign. I’ve got some time, which is good. But I definitely need to get different opinions and see the debates before I make a decision.

How do you stay informed?

It’s definitely difficult. I think a lot of it is hard to sift through. And that’s kind of the news in general, so I try to be pretty picky about where I’m getting my information from, so like avoiding Twitter and Facebook.

The BBC is where I usually look, so I try to keep up to date, but try to find impartial articles if I can, because it’s really, really hard.

I think false or overly exaggerated information is really unfortunate.

I think it stresses people out, too, because things are blown out of proportion. Like, it’s OK. It’s not that easy to ruin everything.

What issues are most important to you?

The main issues that I think about are probably immigration, which is a huge one. Like I said, my grandparents are immigrants. And also, climate change, and global warming, and finding out ways to be environmentally sustainable. That’s an important one because no one wants the world to end.

And I think the last one is a healthy economy, especially as a soon-to-be college graduate, it’s nerve-wracking.

Daniel Fisher, 18, is a college student at the University of St. Thomas. Rewire PBS Our Future Young Voters IssuesCredit: Elle Moulin for Rewire.org

Daniel Fisher, 18

Are you registered to vote?

Yes. This will be my first election.

What issues are important to you?

Probably what to do about the increasing cost of health care, stabilizing the economy, and probably climate change, in general, finding solutions in general.

Where do you fall politically?

I’d say I’m independent, probably more middle to right, depends on the policy, mostly.

Where do you get your political news?

I read a variety of sources on my phone, I try to check them based on cross-comparison to the same types of sources to compare which ones are more accurate.

Alban Cooke and Abdalla Mohamed are college students at the University of Minnesota. Our Future Rewire PBS young voters IssuesCredit: Elle Moulin for Rewire.org

Alban Cooke and Abdalla Mohamed, both 20

Are you registered to vote?

Mohamed: I think I am. I don’t know, honestly.

Cooke: I don’t believe so.

Do you know who you’re voting for in 2020?

Cooke: Me personally, I want Bernie Sanders to win this next year.

Mohamed: Bernie, yeah.

Cooke: Also, (U.S. Representative) Ilhan Omar. I’d vote for her and Bernie Sanders, those are the top two people.

What issues are most important to you?

Cooke: Schooling, obviously. Bernie Sanders has a point. One of the biggest things is student debt, which is very hard. If you look at a lot of students, they struggle on a daily basis with paying loans and collecting debt, it’s something that hurts them when they try to progress in their life after schooling. So I hope and pray that it’s something he gets a chance at.

Mohamed: Yeah, that’s one of the main things. And obviously freedom, any freedoms.

Do you align with a political party?

Mohamed: I would say for sure I’m not a Republican, I’m more of a Democrat because of how my family is. I’m not a Republican at all.

Cooke: I’m not a Republican. I don’t have any particular party. For me a person is a good person, if they want to make a difference, that’s who they are. It doesn’t matter where they’re stationed.

How do you stay informed?

Mohamed: Twitter. I’m not gonna lie, I look at Twitter a lot, that’s the main place I get a lot of information from. I see Donald Trump’s posts, and everything going around.

Also my parents talk about it. They don’t talk about it often, but they’ll turn on the TV.

Cooke: Same thing with me. My parents, and hearing it from their point of view. And sometimes when I get free time by myself or I’m bored, or something, I’ll search up on my phone a couple questions I’m having or their agendas personally.

Mostly social networking though. You get a lot of things from social networking. But to me, 90 percent of things you can’t believe on social networking. There’s only a chunk of it that’s actually real and actually true.

[Read: Is #CancelStudentDebt a Real Possibility?]

Eliza King, 18, is a college student at Macalester College. Rewire PBS Our Future Young Voters IssuesCredit: Elle Moulin for Rewire.org

Eliza King, 18

Are you registered to vote?

Yeah.

Is there a political party you agree with?

So I feel like I don’t know as much as I’d like to about just everything in general, and I feel like I need to educate myself more about it. I think that I definitely am more liberal with my views. I’m not sure, like, which party I’m aligning with yet.

I’m passionate about the climate crisis. So I think that’s going to be the thing that sways my vote the most. Who’s going to step up and do the most, to help the country? That’s a big issue.

How are you going to make that decision?

I went to the Elizabeth Warren thing they had here in August, and that was really cool. (Editor’s note: Elizabeth Warren held a town hall Aug. 19 at Macalester College.)

After that I was like, ‘Okay, I need to learn more about everything.’ And so I’ve been trying to on social media follow different candidates and everything and just kind of educate myself more about what their platforms are about. I still need to continue to.

I’m from California originally and it’s a very blue state. And then Minnesota is more of a swing-ish state. It’s more often blue. So I feel like I have a chance to have a bigger voice than I would and so I’d like to take advantage of that and then be able to do something with my vote.

Do your friends talk about politics?

At my high school, no one knew anything really. And then when I got accepted here, I joined a bunch of the social media groups and everyone seems so well-versed and well-educated about everything. And I was like, ‘Oh crap.’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know anything.’

David, 20

(David asked that his last name and photo not be used.)

Are you registered to vote?

No. Actually, maybe I am, I just don’t know. I’ve never voted in an election.

Why?

For me personally, I don’t care too much about politics, I guess. I don’t follow it at all.

A lot of the issues I feel like don’t really relate to me in any kind of way.

Which issues do you wish politicians paid attention to?

That’s the thing, I don’t care what they talk about. It can be relevant to me but at this moment, I don’t really care.

Will you vote in 2020?

This coming year, maybe. Just to vote against Trump.

I don’t follow politics too much but I know he’s just not mature enough to be president of a country. And he doesn’t really think about what he says, like his tweets and stuff.

Sophia Smith and Isabelle Kinney, both 19, are college students at the University of St. Thomas. Rewire PBS our future voters IssuesCredit: Elle Moulin for Rewire.org

Sophia Smith and Isabelle Kinney, both 19

Are you registered to vote?

Smith: Yes.

Kinney: Yes.

Who do you think you’ll vote for in 2020?

Kinney: There’s a lot for the Democratic party, I want to look more into it.

Smith: I want to be wise with it. Because when I first had the ability to vote, I was just like, “Oh yeah, I’ll just vote for whoever is liberal.” But I think whoever has the best shot I want to vote for. And knowing the most reliable sources to look into for sure.

I’ve looked up all the different ones and what they stand for.

I also talk to my family about it, and asked their opinions too. We all have similar views that I agree with. So I trust them and their input.

Kinney: They don’t really pressure us to make a decision, but they definitely give a non-biased opinion.

What issues are important to you?

Smith: Everything Trump’s doing. Sorry, that’s a little targeted, but I don’t agree with him and a lot of things that he’s done.

Kinney: Especially regarding women.

Smith: Racial equality, which has also been a huge problem, even on campus, and all around the world.

That’s a super important thing that we need to take action on, because we’ve kind of been going back in time, going back in the wrong direction.

Do you talk about political issues with your friends?

Smith: We haven’t really talked about it much here because it’s a conservative school, and neither of us were really raised conservative. So we don’t want to stir up any debates our first year. I try not to talk about it.

I talk about it with my boyfriend and my family, and my closer friends, but that’s about it.

If I do talk about it I probably won’t stop talking about it.

Gretchen Brown

Gretchen has reported on the criminal justice system in rural Minnesota and covered everything from politics to millennial truck drivers for Wisconsin Public Radio. She is passionate about public media as a public service. She’s also into music and really good coffee. Follow her on Twitter @gretch_brown.