Even with a hotly debated election underway, Utahns under 40 are less likely to vote, a 2News Investigation found.
Millennials and Generation Z told experts they don’t vote because they don’t think their vote matters. Older generations, who show up to polls in greater numbers, make up a larger percentage of the voting population and ultimately decide Utah’s representation and policy.
2NEWS ASKED: ARE YOU VOTING AND, IF SO, WHY?
I had the same sentiment that my vote didn’t count for a long time," 26-year-old Jessica Perry says after admitting to 2News this will be the first time she's ever voted.
For her younger sister Erin, 22, the Black Lives Matter movement along with other current events convinced her to vote.
Erin Perry says:
All of my friends have a bit of a stake in the election. None of us are happy about what’s going on.
23-year-old Solstice Harris says the idea that your vote doesn't matter is infuriating.
Obviously, historically, Utah votes red. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth voting. So come election night, two days after election night, all the votes are counted, they’ll know that a few people, I just want to see that ratio being a little bit different than it normally is .
For months, young people have been protesting for racial justice, for gun rights, for the president, and against the president.
But that enthusiasm doesn't usually translate to a higher voter turnout, experts told the 2News Investigative Team.
EXPERTS SAY PROTESTING ISN'T ENOUGH TO GENERATE CHANGE
Hope Zitting-Goeckeritz, executive director of Voterise says:
We love that you’re exercising your first amendment rights peacefully, but it doesn’t really do much unless you have another action attached to that, which is voting."
The non-partisan nonprofit registers voters under 30. Zitting-Goeckeritz says:
In 2014, only 8.1 percent of 18 to 29 years old actually voted in Utah. In 2018, that increased to about 16 percent.
WHAT WOULD CHANGE IF YOU PEOPLE VOTED?
The 2News Investigative Team dug in and learned state policy and representation at both the state and federal level would be radically different if young people did come out to vote in Utah.
Joshua Meyer, president of the University of Utah College Republicans says:
Policy—there’s no question that issues like student debt would get a bigger share of our attention. The environment is another big one, especially here in the Salt Lake Valley."
Meyer thinks the Democratic Party might have a better turnout, but not enough to turn the Utah blue. She says:
I also think that we’d see some evolution in our politics, not only on the Democratic side but on the Republican side.
Ermiya Fanaeian, Director of Diversity and Inclusion for the Associated Students of the University of Utah (ASUU), thinks Utahns would see more progressive policies benefiting the working class, saying:
I think that Utah would be much more purple if we were to have young people actually vote every single election."
HOW SERIOUS IS THE YOUTH VOTER DEFICIT?
Christopher Collard, a research analyst at Utah Foundation, says it takes a while for young people to develop roots in a community and that's reflected in voter participation by age. He says:
Millennials and post-millennials, they make up almost half of the adult population in Utah. They only make up one-third of the voting population."
Millennials are the largest generation in the state, but Gen Xers and Baby Boomers out vote them.
If millennials voted at the same rate that Boomers do, they’d have a much more dominant voice."
WHY YOUNGER UTAHNS AREN'T VOTING
People under 40 grew up with instant access to information, social media, and now thousands participate in Utah protests. So why haven't they come out to vote in high numbers?
A lot of it is a mental roadblock, they feel like their vote doesn’t matter."
The talk about voting is it’s a habitual thing. It takes a lot more energy to get young people to turn out because they haven’t built that habit up yet."
People who, you know, are in these educated environments are much more likely to vote than those who have to worry about other things in their lives beyond checking off a ballot."
LESS PARTY-AFFILIATED, YOUNGER UTAHNS WEIGH IN ON PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES
Several experts, including Zitting-Goeckeritz, told the 2News Investigative Team that younger generations vote on issues, not party affiliations.
Some of the young progressives admitted they're coming out to vote against Trump, even if Biden wasn't their first choice.
Multiple people mentioned they felt like they were settling for Biden. Fanaeian explains, saying:
A lot of young people don’t have a commitment or dedication to the two-party system and would much rather vote for a candidate that does represent their views, which they feel as if they’re not Joe Biden or Donald Trump."
This sentiment greatly contrasts with what Meyer and the College Republicans feel about voting for Trump.
I think Donald Trump is a really exciting candidate to a lot of people who are involved in our organization. I think his ideas agree with a lot of ours. I don’t think like a lot of people feel like they’re settling at all."
UNIVERSITY OF UTAH STUDENTS WEIGH IN ABOUT VOTING
HOW TO FIND INFORMATION ABOUT CANDIDATES, REGISTER, AND VOTE
Voterise publishes a free, nonpartisan guide to Utah's candidates, which is designed to inform voters.
The deadline for online voter registration has closed. According to the Lieutenant Governor's Office, Utahns with valid ID can still register to vote at an Election Day voting location. To find an Election Day voting location near you, type you address into the Lieutenant Governor's Office Voter Search.