Sunday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially announced her candidacy in the 2016 presidential race. Clinton’s announcement video shows Americans from all walks of life, accompanied by the slogan “Hillary for America.”
Though Clinton is polling strongly overall and winning against most potential competitors, she is still haunted by the youth vote. Clinton previously ran for presidency in 2008 with President Barack Obama as her main competition for the Democratic nomination. Obama swiftly took the youth vote from her campaign, which, along with other factors, caused Clinton’s failure to win the nomination.
Clinton has found few legitimate competitors moving forward to the 2016 election, which makes this round look a lot safer for her than the last. Regardless, Clinton still needs to capitalize on the young voter block if she is going to win the presidency, or even the nomination.
According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, Republicans are currently unpopular with minorities, women and the youth, which makes it even more important for Clinton to grab these votes. At the same time, more people than ever are Independents who do not identify with either party.
Young people are also a sizable chunk of all voters, with 46 million Americans in the 18- to 29-year-old age bracket, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. However, there are only 39 million senior citizens who can vote. This means that if young voters sustain a higher turnout, they could have their issues, such as student loans and high unemployment rates, addressed.
Even though millennials, whose ages range from 18- to 33-years-old, tend to identify strongly as Democrats, according to a Pew Research Center report, those who came of voting age under Obama may lean toward the Republican Party, as reported in the Washington Post. This makes it even more critical for Clinton to repair the Democratic image for these voters if she wants to win, and she appears to be aware of this.
It’s also just as crucial for millennials to decide what they really need from their representatives. The issues that are important to millennials, such as same-sex marriage, student loan debt and unemployment will become increasingly important in politics if they show up at the polls. This generation has the power to make change.
Essentially, this election cycle is a new chance for the country’s young voters to prove their voice matters. After all, the two main parties cater to the groups that vote. This is partially why broken systems, such as Social Security, remain untouched — senior citizens vote in large numbers, which certainly outpace the youth vote.
Ultimately, if millennials want to improve their social and political experience, they need to direct both parties to their problems by showing the strength of the youth vote, no matter whom that ultimately means voting for.
Chelsea Mulligan is a freshman majoring in international studies.