POLITICS
11/04/2014 10:55 am ET Updated Nov 05, 2014

Millennial Mania: Will The Most Coveted Voting Bloc Show Up To The Polls?

This election cycle, candidates from both parties have shown that when it comes to courting millennials, "the limit does not exist."

Senate candidate Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) posted a "Mean Girls"-inspired tweet to urge young people to get out and vote. The College Republican National Committee made a "Say Yes To The Dress" spoof associating Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) with the perfect wedding dress. No matter their party affiliation, it seems, political operatives will stop at nothing to build support among the coveted demographic of 18- to 29-year-old voters.

But efforts to reach out to young voters are largely based on what political consultants imagine millennials want to hear -- and on the assumption that they are keen to vote at all.

The Huffington Post went out to hear from young people themselves whether Tuesday's midterm elections matter to them and what issues they're paying attention to this election cycle.

Take a look at our findings by watching the video above.

Despite the campaigns' scramble to impress them, young people are only slightly more likely to vote in this cycle than in the 2010 midterms. In that election, youth turnout fell far short of 2008, when 18- to 29-year-olds showed their power as a bloc by turning out en masse for President Barack Obama. This suggests that young people simply aren't as enthusiastic about midterms, and today's election will likely support that hypothesis.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), 24 percent of voters under 30 showed up to the voting booth for the 2010 midterm elections, compared to the 51 percent that voted in the 2008 presidential election.

A recent Harvard University poll shows that only 26 percent of young Americans under the age of 30 intend to vote in this year's election.

The history of the youth vote

While the last two presidential elections were landmark moments for youth turnout, it's difficult to draw conclusions for years in which no White House hopeful is on the ballot.

The first pivotal election year for young voters was 1972, after the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. That year, according to CIRCLE, 55 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 29 cast their ballots.

But turnout among this newly significant demographic eventually fell.

By the 1990s, less than 40 percent of eligible young people were voting in presidential election years. Similar proportions voted in 2000 and 2004. Midterm elections saw even lower participation, with just 22 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds voting in 2002 and 25 percent in 2006.

Then came the 2008 presidential election, when young voters made headlines for their record-breaking turnout.

Though the proportion of voters between 18 and 29 who went to the polls fell from 50 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2012, young voters' participation remained significant and politically important. It was these young voters who, along with other groups that are historically underrepresented at the polls, kept Obama in the Oval Office.

What millennial voters could do

There's a reason that young voters seem like a political gold mine: Evidence shows a broad consensus among millennials on a number of issues, which means they could form a strong voter bloc to give candidates mandates for significant policy shifts.

For instance, a recent poll from the University of Texas at Austin shows how young voters' political preferences on energy issues could lead to large-scale policy changes. The poll showed that voters under the age of 35 are significantly more likely than those over 65 to support greater regulation of carbon and coal, and are less likely to support environmentally dangerous plans like the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

Organizations that recognize the potential power of millennials already have plans in place for Election Day 2014. One example is Cosmopolitan magazine, which ranks political candidates based on their views about reproductive rights and equal pay. Cosmo announced last week that it would be sending a party bus to shuttle college voters at North Carolina State University to the polls on Tuesday as part of its #CosmoVotes campaign for young female voters. North Carolina's embattled Sen. Kay Hagan (D) is one of the candidates Cosmo has endorsed this cycle.

For millennials who aren't sure which candidates they agree with, it's still not too late to find a match online: A new app called Votr, launched in advance of this year's election and shared first with HuffPost, helps users find the candidate that will be their "ideological soulmate."

All the buzz aside, however, Tuesday is likely to be another wasted opportunity for a vital and growing segment of the American voting population to flex its muscles. But with pundits already turning the page from the midterms to the 2016 presidential election, the political pursuit of millennial support won't end anytime soon.

Watch what millennials have to say about voting in the video above.

Video produced by Akbar Ahmed, Amber Ferguson, Diane Jeanty and Sarah Harvard
Video edited by Amber Ferguson
Story written by Akbar Ahmed, Sarah Harvard and Diane Jeanty

HuffPost

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