Voters under 30 are a keenly watched voting bloc in the United States, but how young voters will cast their ballots in November is expected to vary by race.
“There are huge differences in who young people support, candidate-wise, by race and gender,” Abby Kiesa, director of impact at the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) based at Tufts University, told VOA.
“For example, for a huge portion of young people of color, we are much more likely to see youths of color, especially young Black and Latino young people, vote for Democratic candidates. However, when we look at white youth, we don't see as strong support.”
In addition to millennials and Generation Z being 37% of the electorate, according to Pew Research, Gen Z will comprise a bigger portion of the U.S. electorate than the older silent generation.
The U.S. population is poised to move from majority white to majority minority, or mostly non-white voters, by 2045, according to the Brookings Institution. How young voters will cast their ballots in November is expected to vary by race.
According to the most recent poll by Forbes, Black voters under 30 favor Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden by 70%, much higher than the average of all voters under 30, which stands at 57%.
“To be honest, I would bet all my top dollars on the Democratic Party,” Steve Etienne, a student at Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, told VOA.
For Etienne, originally from Florida and born to Haitian immigrants, education, health care and immigration policies are the top issues that matter to him and swing him toward the Democratic Party.
“I am in college … my little brother is up next in the family, and college is not something easy to pay for. I know some candidates have ... proposed that two years of community college can possibly be tuition-free, so that would be a benefit,” he said.
While health care and education are consistently top issues among young voters, CIRCLE data from 2018 shows that for Black women, racism is the top issue. For Latina women, it is immigration.
“The biggest issue that I'm really looking for is the racial injustice that's happening in America today,” Hailey Moya, a student in Virginia, told VOA. “And then, Latinos being locked up in cages,” she added, referring to a controversial immigration policy.
Moya said that as a Black and Latina woman, she and her friends face challenges that motivate her political opinion which her white friends may not have to consider.
“It's not really in their lives to, like, look out for certain things or to be scared,” she said, citing levels of comfort in calling the police or 911.
According to a Gallup poll conducted over the summer, just 18% of Black Americans feel “very confident” that they would have a positive experience when encountering a police officer, compared with 56% of white Americans.
Etienne said the people he knows who plan to vote Republican in November seem focused on business interests.
“Some of my white classmates — some of their parents are business owners, and I guess I could see why there was support for the Republican side or Donald Trump, because he's, like, known for his businesses,” Etienne said.
According to CIRCLE, young white male voters who support Trump are most motivated by gun rights and the campaign promise to “Make America Great Again.”
Of course, minority voters do not unanimously align with the Democratic Party.
“I'm certainly not offended by anyone thinking that I'm a liberal … just because of my last name,” said Joey Rodriguez, executive director of the college Republicans group at The George Washington University.
Rodriguez said that because of his Christian roots, being pro-life is at the center of his political ideology.
A few groups of ethnic and racial minorities have voiced their support for the president, including “Latinos for Trump,” which emphasizes its support for his focus on the economy and Republican commitment to family values.
While Kamala Harris made history as the first Black and first South Asian woman on a major party ticket, even her supporters say that her identity alone is not enough to sway their votes.
“While it's important to promote and encourage diversity, it's equally important to recognize that simply being diverse or coming from a diverse background doesn't make someone a better politician or leader,” Marvi Ali, a high school student in Delaware, told VOA.
According to data from CIRCLE, young racial and ethnic minorities are more likely than their white counterparts to have advocated for a policy or participated in a demonstration.
“Youth of color are much more likely to have advocated for a policy than white youth — 41% versus 34%. Overall, 28% of young people in that age group say they have participated in a march or demonstration, but 37% of youth of color have done so, compared to just 22% of white youth,” Kiesa told VOA via email.
Whether these levels of civic engagement will translate to voter turnout will be seen in November.
Kathleen Struck contributed to this report.