In this year’s contentious and historic presidential election, the outcome will likely be decided by voters in critical swing states, such as Ohio, Florida, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, and students hailing from these states are not underestimating the importance of their vote.
“Being from a swing state, especially a small one, I’m super excited for my vote to have a lot of impact in this election,” said Molly Adams, a third-year bioengineering student from Meriden, N.H.
According to Politico, there are 11 states identified as swing states, or “battleground states,” where Republicans and Democrats have similar levels of voter support: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. On average, Trump and Clinton are polling within three percentage points of one another in these states, and the numbers are changing every day.
Historically, swing states have had a significant impact on the outcome of presidential elections. Since 1960, no candidate has won the election without carrying Ohio. No Republican candidate has emerged victorious without winning Florida since 1924.
The issues that matter to citizens in swing states vary. David Federman, a third-year finance and accounting major from Naples, Fla., thinks that people from his hometown have conservative values and are primarily concerned about the economy.
“They’re really worried about how the different tax rates will be affected by the two different tax plans,” said Federman. “They’re not happy with either of [the plans].”
Matt Lesher, a third-year engineering student from West Grove, Pa., sees similar issues — namely domestic and economic affairs — dominating the political conversations in his community, and these are the topics that matter to him as well.
However, while he predicts his county will swing in favor of the Republican nominee, he plans to vote for a third party candidate. In fact, more than one-third of voters under the age of 30 plan to vote for either Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson or the Green Party’s Jill Stein instead of either Clinton or Trump in November.
“I’m not happy about it, but I’m voting for [Libertarian candidate] Gary Johnson,” said Lesher. “I’m 100 percent wasting my vote and giving it away, but it’s better than not voting and better than voting for either of the other two people, in my opinion.”
Third-year finance and accounting student Regan Kilbride from Wadsworth, Ohio, believes that in her state, the winner will be determined by who carries urban areas such as Cleveland and Cincinnati. According to Kilbride, that will likely be Clinton.
“Maybe some of the more rural voting districts will vote Trump, but I think the big areas with Cleveland and Columbus and Cincinnati, they’ll probably vote for [Hillary Clinton],” said Kilbride.
Kilbride will cast a ballot for Clinton this November.
In terms of voter turnout, however, she’ll likely be in the minority of college students. In the 2012 presidential election, only 38 percent of 18-24 year-olds voted, compared with almost 58 percent nationwide.
The voter turnout is generally higher in swing states — in 2012, over 64 percent of citizens in swing states voted — so the percentage of college students voting in swing states is likely to be higher as well. Still, if this election stays true to historic trends, college students will vote in lower numbers than the rest of the population. Kilbride believes that typically, the reason for low voter turnout among college students is cynicism.
“I think that people are kind of pessimistic, and they think their vote doesn’t matter,” said Kilbride.
Kendall Kosten, a marketing and management major from Boulder, Colo., agrees. Still, she’s optimistic that voter turnout, especially among college students in swing states, will increase this year, largely because of the polarizing nature of this election.
“I hope that because the race is close that it will encourage people to go out and cast their vote,” said Kosten.
No matter what the results, Adams and other college students are excited to cast their ballot in an election that will certainly make history.
“This is the first election I can vote in,” said Adams. “It’s pretty exciting to be a part of something that’ll have so much impact on the future.”