The Wash
Line of hundreds of people outside of a Trump rally.

Affordability and climate change drive young people to vote

Young voters passionate about pertinent issues, but find the field uninspiring.

By Ethan Cesar

MANCHESTER, N.H. – For young voters, the ever-narrowing field of candidates is unlike any primary they’ve witnessed before, and it isn’t what’s motivating them to vote. After Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis halted his presidential campaign and endorsed former president Donald Trump, the race for the GOP nomination has become a two-person competition between Trump and former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley.

On the Democratic side, a massive write-in campaign for President Joe Biden was expected to overcome challenges from Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and author and self-help guru Marianne Williamson, among others.

As a general election rematch between Biden and Trump becomes increasingly likely, many young voters said they are far from enthusiastic about casting their ballot. A poll released last month from the Institute of Politics at Harvard’s Kennedy School found that when comparing 18- to 29-year-olds in the fall of 2019 to the same age cohort in the fall of 2023, their reported intention to “definitely” vote for president has decreased from 57% to 49%.

But that doesn’t mean that young voters don’t care about a range of issues impacting them and their communities. A poll released on Nov. 29, 2023, from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts’ Tisch College, found that the top issues among 18- to 34-year-olds include the cost of living/inflation (53%), earning a livable wage (28%), addressing climate change and preventing gun violence (26%, respectively), and expanding abortion access (19%).

A line of prospective voters and political tourists forms outside a rally for former president Donald Trump. (Talia Pantaleo/The Wash)

Young people are involved in the first-in-the-nation primary, and their motivation concerns critical issues. In line outside a Trump rally here last Saturday, Mike Gavin said an alternative to Biden was needed to revive the economy. 

“I want the economy to be better,” the 19-year-old  said. “Hopefully, one day, I can get a house.” 

Gavin is like many in his community. He braved the long line with friends, enjoys watching comedians, listens to The Joe Rogan Experience, and sees a need to improve the status quo. His focus was not necessarily on Trump himself but instead on determining how best to have his issues represented.

Trump merch outside of SNHU arena
People waited in line outside the SNHU arena for hours in single digit weather Saturday night.

Outside a Nikki Haley rally in Exeter, New Hampshire, on Sunday, Brittany Martinez identified climate change and economic pressure as unique issues facing young people. To Martinez, some Republicans aren’t addressing climate change enough for younger generations.

She said Haley is the candidate to meet her concerns head-on. “I’m 32. I should be able to buy a house. I can’t afford to because the economy is just not working,” Martinez said.

Many young voters in this political climate aren’t effectively persuaded by President Joe Biden’s bridge-building or Trump’s rebuke of the political establishment, and elected officials in New Hampshire are noting this.

At a reproductive rights and pro-democracy press conference in Manchester, New Hampshire,  Sen. Jeanne Shaheen said, “Reproductive freedom and the future strength of our democracy are on the ballot this election.” She invoked a crucial issue, hoping to appeal to young voters in the Granite State rather than to the strength of party unity or sharing an overwhelming excitement for Biden.

The Wash Staff

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