It’s almost a cliche that young voters are concerned about different issues than older citizens casting their ballots in Saturday’s Democratic primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Issues such as Barry Goldwater.
“A lot of people I talk to are hung up on Goldwater,” said Adarrell Gadsden, a Winthrop University senior and Clinton supporter, who sounds weary of how often he’s had to defend his candidate’s support, as a teenaged young Republican, for the archconservative Arizona senator’s 1964 presidential campaign.
On college campuses, where Clinton supporters such as Gadsden are often outnumbered by Sanders supporters, the Goldwater factoid in Clinton’s biography, little noticed elsewhere on the campaign trail, has become a regular talking point against the former secretary of state in campus bull sessions.
“It’s a big thing,” said Gadsdenid, who dismisses the episode as a youthful indiscretion. “That she was a Goldwater supporter, that stands out.”
A new generation of millennial voters will turn out to the polls this year, and they’re bringing their own list of concerns. Conditioned by the recession and the Black Lives Matter movement, many of them are too young to have voted for Barack Obama.
I’ve seen it packed out for Bernie at Claflin
Laverne Page Jr, on Sanders support at the historically black college
They join a cohort of an estimated 83 million millennials born between 1982 and 2000. A Tufts University study found that, in 2012, the number of voters under 30 exceeded the margin of victory in 29 states.
One common concern shouldn’t come as a surprise, and it explains at least some of Sanders’ appeal to young people.
“One thing that worries a lot of us about the future is student loan debt,” said Laverne Page Jr., who is leaning toward the Vermont senator and his proposal to make public colleges tuition-free.
“I just want it to be affordable,” Page said. “Not necessarily free, but at least affordable.”
Brooks Hammett, a Winthrop freshman, says she’s concerned about the tax increases that would be necessary to pay for such a proposal.
“People living paycheck to paycheck won’t be able to afford that,” she said, saying Clinton’s plans to “refinance (loans) and lowering interest rates will not be as dramatic a step.”
A Tufts University study found that, in 2012, the number of voters under 30 exceeded the margin of victory in 29 states.
But Sanders’ college plan is only part of the reason young people are excited to vote in this election. Roman Vitanza, president of Winthrop’s College Democrats chapter, says he saw interest in the race skyrocket among his classmates after Sanders held a rally on campus in September, followed by a nationally televised forum with Clinton, Sanders and Martin O’Malley in November.
“I think a lot of the excitement comes from the forum, due to Winthrop being in the national spotlight and the student turnout for that,” Vitanza said. “It comes from Bernie being here, and Chelsea (Clinton) being in Rock Hill, and now Bill (Clinton) coming is very exciting. ... It’s got people talking about it.”
The excitement was stoked by dueling campaigns on campus from “Hillary Fellows” and “Bernie Bros.”
One issue hanging over the election for young African-American voters is civil rights, which has taken on new meaning since police-involved shootings led Winthrop students to stage a campus “die-in” last year.
Both candidates have emphasized their civil rights’ credentials, from Sanders’ involvement in protests against segregation at the University of Chicago to Clinton’s work with the Children’s Defense Fund.
That she was a Goldwater supporter, that stands out.
Clinton supporter Adarrell Gadsden, on a common complaint against his candidate
Gadsden explains his support for Clinton: “She came down from Yale to South Carolina to fight for civil rights, for human rights,” he said. “That shows she has experience.”
Page says he sees a generational shift in voting patterns, where older African-Americans support Clinton while younger voters like himself are more open to Sanders.
“I’ve seen it packed out for Bernie at Claflin,” the historically black college in Orangeburg, he said.
For his part, Vitanza hasn’t made up his mind who to vote for on Saturday, saying he hopes to hear more from those around him here and back home in Pickens to help him make up his mind.