Social media, targeted campaigns may cause record numbers of young adults to vote

Shaleese Jefferson drove from Bloomington to Indianapolis on Oct. 27, 2020, to vote for the first time at the City-County Building. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — With just one week until the election, new statistics from multiple sources indicate a record turnout ahead from voters ages 18-24.

Young-adult voters in Indianapolis who spoke to News 8 said that they believe their voices need to be represented this election more than ever before.

A poll done by CNN shows that when it comes to young voters, 51% of registered voters from ages 18-34 say they are “extremely” or “very enthusiastic” to vote in 2020, compared to the 30% of registered voters in that age group who said the same in 2016.

“Being a young voter can change our future,” said 19-year-old Shaleese Jefferson, who drove from Bloomington to Indianapolis to vote for the first time.

For voters from ages 18-24, social media and access to information about candidates and issues on the ballot are playing a huge role in their participation in the 2020 election.

“They are being influenced by their peers, too. People are talking about it on social media a lot more: who they are voting for, the issues they care about. So social issues and candidates are becoming more of the forefront of social media,” said Professor Lisa-Marie Napoli, director of Political and Civic Engagement program at Indiana University. Napoli is also the co-chair of the Big Ten Voting Challenge.

Napoli says that young voters’ awareness of issues has skyrocketed in recent years. They are participating in protests and voicing their opinions.

The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University reports that as of June, 27% of 18-to-24-year-olds had attended a march or demonstration. That is an increase from 5% in 2016 and 16% in 2018.

“The Black Lives Matter movement really motivated me. You know, being half African American and seeing issues going on with racism I just feel like it is very big for us to change,” Jefferson said.

“Definitely when freedoms are at stake especially my own as a gay man, I think that does make a difference,” said Daniel Dickerhoff, 25, who voted for the first time Tuesday.

The U.S. has seen a steady increase in young voters starting in 2008 then a big jump in 2016.

“We saw the numbers triple in terms of turnout of young voters in the 2018 midterm election compared to the prior one. So it went from 9% to 36% of students turning out to vote,” Napoli said.

National campaigns at universities and on Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms focused on getting people registered then giving information about where to vote has also influenced young voters.

“The reason I didn’t vote last time is because I didn’t know I was registered. And I feel like this time on Instagram I had a lot of people that really pushed to help me figure out how to do that so I wouldn’t make that mistake again,” Dickerhoff said.

The Marion County Clerk’s office says that they don’t keep track of voters in which age group have already voted either absentee or in person.