Young voters, including many of color, turned out in record numbers this election and overwhelmingly supported the Democratic ticket, helping to push projected election winners Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to secure the highest offices in the U.S.
“This victory belongs to young people,” said Rachel Fleischer, executive director of the Washington-based youth advocacy group Young Invincibles, in a statement released Saturday.
“Young voters ... came out in force and continue to actively shape the future of our country. Young voters of color proved instrumental in determining the outcome of the presidential contest. Young people have now bestowed the new leaders of our nation with the responsibility to move expeditiously in a new direction,” she said.
Among the nearly 240 million eligible voters in the U.S., about 20% are 18- to 29-year-olds, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts.
CIRCLE said voters under 30 favored Biden over President Donald Trump by 61% to 36%, according to exit polls.
“Election Day served as the culmination of an unprecedented election cycle shaped by the COVID-19 pandemic, a nationwide movement for racial justice, and the boundless energy of young people who are making their voices heard in the streets and at the ballot box,” CIRCLE posted on its website Saturday.
CIRCLE predicts that when all votes are counted, a record 53% to 56% of all eligible youths will have participated in the 2020 elections.
Health care, race relations and climate change were the top three issues for young voters, according to CIRCLE polls. Gun violence and student loan debt were also considerations for youthful voters.
“I want a country that takes care of the poor, invests in clean energy, makes health care universally available and listens to public health experts,” Owen Voutsinas-Klose, 21, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania and president of the Penn Democrats, told VOA. “With a President Biden, we will have this.”
Some young Trump supporters told VOA they are concerned about how Biden will deal with issues that matter to them, including abortion policy.
“I want a president who is pro-life, I want a president who is going to be fair and equitable in administering justice … but I really care about preserving the institutions that we have in this country,” said Austin Harrison, 19, a sophomore at American University who said he voted for Trump.
Jackie Juergensen, a junior at University of Maryland who also voted for Trump, said, “A big issue that was important to me this election was voting pro-life. Trump is one of the most pro-life presidents we’ve had in recent history.”
The youth vote was particularly strong among young people of color. An analysis from CIRCLE showed major impact by youth of color in key battleground states, such as Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
In North Carolina and Georgia, for example, 90% or more of Black youths voted for Biden, while more than half of white youths supported Trump, CIRCLE reported.
“Let me be extremely clear: It was Black youth in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia that made the difference in the youth vote in this election they deserve massive credit …” tweeted David Hogg, a youth activist who was at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018 during a mass shooting.
“We have a lot more work to do but I just wanted to say I am so thankful to all of the gun violence survivors the parents that have gone through unimaginable trauma and pain and have had to push for this for decades we have to hold Joe Biden accountable but this is a big win,” Hogg tweeted from a celebratory crowd in Washington.
Cameron Emamdjomeh, a student at Louisiana State University who said he voted for Biden, said in an interview, “I voted because I feel it is important for our voices to be heard and to participate in the election. One way the election could impact me is the way that COVID is taken care of. I am so tired of this pandemic.”
Voutsinas-Klose said he was “extremely happy” about the projected Biden victory. “However, I’m disheartened by some Democratic losses down-ballot and the likelihood that [Kentucky Senator] Mitch McConnell keeps the Senate.
“The fact that this election was as close as it was is a testament to the deep problems facing this country,” he said. “We have a lot more work to do to save our planet, recover from coronavirus and help the poor.”