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Young Voters Who Care? Come To Iowa

Posted: September 20, 2015 | By: Austin Cannon Tagged: From the Campaign Trail
Paige Prien, left, and Westhenry Ioerger, right, take in the Republican debate in Harvey Ingham Hall on Wednesday night. Both are 18 and are going through their first presidential election as voters. Photo by Austin Cannon.

Paige Prien, left, and Westhenry Ioerger, right, take in the Republican debate in Harvey Ingham Hall on Wednesday night. Both are 18 and are going through their first presidential election as voters. Photo by Austin Cannon.

Young voters are oftentimes the hardest part of the electorate to get to the polls. You can pick a reason why: They don’t care; they think the system is corrupt or broken; or they’re simply unaware. According to the Census Bureau, only 45 percent of people ages 18-29 voted in the 2012 general election. Forty-five might not be the largest percentage, but it doesn’t make it impossible to find a young voter. You can also do what I did: go to a debate watch party on a college campus — basically a room full of young people who will probably vote.

When I went to the watch party in Harvey Ingham Hall at Drake Wednesday night, I wanted to talk to some 18-year-old first-year students about their role in electing the next president. I figured it was obvious they cared since they sacrificed a Wednesday night to watch a comically long three-hour debate.

Westhenry Ioerger (great name) is 18. The first-year from Montana is a Ted Cruz supporter, sporting his Cruz T-Shirt on debate night.

“I believe he stand for freedom and he goes strictly by the Constitution, and I like that,” Ioerger said.

Ioerger said he chose to support Cruz after attending the Texas senator’s religious freedom rally in Des Moines on Aug. 21. He plans to start a “Mellinnials for Cruz” group on campus.

It’s not much of a surprise that Ioerger is politically active. He often discusses politics with his father, and his cousin, Annette Sweeney, was a member of the Iowa House. Growing up, he would sometimes attend her events.

“I have an interest in my future, and I think all young people should be more interested because, really, the country is going to be ours in a couple years and we need to take care of it,” Ioerger said.

To his left was fellow first-year Paige Prien of Monroe, Wisconsin. She said her top three are Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and her governor, Scott Walker.

Similar to Ioerger, Prien said he has been watching the news since she was 4 years old. Part of the reason she came to Drake was the political climate in Iowa. “Politics is my life,” she said. “News is my life.” Ioerger was in the same vein, saying he “definitely wanted to be in Des Moines” for caucus season.

Both kept close attention to the debate, exchanging comments about things like Carson’s articulateness and Fiorina’s ability to defend herself. Prien said she thought Chris Christie was focusing too much on New Jersey. “You’re running for the country, not for New Jersey anymore,” she said.

They weren’t impressed by the repeated personal attacks throughout Monday night. Ioerger was glad Cruz was mostly refraining from going after the other candidates on stage. Prien didn’t like the format.

“I definitely disagree with how they’re running the debate,” Prien said. “I think they’re focusing more on having the candidates attack each other than actually discussing the issues.”

The candidates trading blows certainly provided an entertainment aspect to the debate, but the two first-time voters were unimpressed by the theatrics that likely helped make it the most-watched program in CNN history.

So here were two 18-year olds, in my estimation, thinking what was happening on CNN had more to do with the candidates than the issues. Pretty mature for a couple people who can’t even rent a car yet.

But Ioerger and Prien are by no means the norm. Iowa attracts people who are politically invested. You can drive through a neighborhood and see plenty of Bernie Sanders signs in Des Moines, but it’s definitely not like that in Missouri or Connecticut, I can confirm. Iowa is a politically important state, so it’s fair to say many of the young adults who come here are too.