Millennial Voters In Florida Watch Election With Amusement, Dread

Sep 8, 2016
Originally published on September 8, 2016 6:51 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

We're going to listen in now to how some voters are getting their heads around this campaign season. We'll be doing this in the weeks leading up to Election Day, hearing from different groups of voters across the U.S. about how they're feeling about the country's future. NPR's Don Gonyea starts us off in Florida where he talked with millennial voters, a group that is maturing and gaining influence.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Brianna Ahumada is walking across the main square of the University of South Florida in Tampa. A sophomore of Colombian descent, she has just registered as a new Florida voter.

Are you paying attention to the election?

BRIANNA AHUMADA: I mean, yeah, I try to as much as I can, but I don't know.

AHUMADA: Ahumada is at the tail end of the millennial generation, but she exemplifies how millennials are digesting this unusual campaign. She says she's mostly focused on school but keeps tabs on things, though not through TV news or newspapers.

AHUMADA: I am very, like, anti-media in a sense that it's very, like, biased. And so I don't like to watch the news and stuff. I'd rather read and look up information on the Internet and all that good stuff.

GONYEA: So do you know who you're voting for?

AHUMADA: No (laughter).

GONYEA: So, so...

AHUMADA: I'm - I have no idea.

GONYEA: If your image of Florida politics is senior citizens worried about Social Security, it's time for an update. There are nearly the same number of Floridians age 20 to 34 as there are over age 65. Overall millennials are far more diverse and more liberal. They also have very different expectations from government, just like they do from other institutions like the media.

(CROSSTALK, LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: At a downtown Tampa restaurant, some young professionals have gathered for lunch and to talk presidential politics. Around the table are Democrats, Republicans and independents. There are Clinton backers here with varying degrees of enthusiasm, a Trump supporter and a Libertarian voter. They've been watching the election with a mix of amusement and dread.

CHRIS CHAMBERS: It's been very entertaining - like a reality TV show almost.

GONYEA: That's Chris Chambers, a military veteran who works for a local power company. Also at the table is Rebecca Arends, a lawyer.

REBECCA ARENDS: I think it's fantastic that everyone is so passionate about it.

GONYEA: But she also says...

ARENDS: This has been a pretty dirty campaign. It's been a circus. That's probably my biggest concern moving forward.

GONYEA: Arends is an independent who supports Clinton. Chambers is a Republican who says he's undecided and not a Trump fan. Seated at the far end is Rachael Rachel Canipe, who works in digital media. She's a Clinton supporter but adds...

RACHEL CANIPE: It's just an unfortunate selection that we have this campaign season.

GONYEA: Amplifying their dissatisfaction with the race is the fact that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump age-wise are a throwback to the baby boom after the relative youthfulness of President Obama.

CANIPE: I'm not satisfied that either of them really understand what it's like to be a millennial or what we care about or value.

GONYEA: That's Rachel Canipe again.

CANIPE: Never before has there been what they call, like, an educational inflation where you have to have a bachelor's degree to do what could be done with an apprenticeship before.

GONYEA: Not to mention what she describes as crippling student debt. Megan Wade, who does community outreach for a volunteer organization, defends millennials against the frequent description of them as pessimists who don't care about politics.

MEGAN WADE: You know, everyone says millennials are apathetic. I don't think that's true anymore. I think people are getting more engaged. But I think maybe we're a little more realistic when it comes to our expectations of government and what government's going to do for us verse (ph) what we need to do and take personal responsibility on.

GONYEA: And there's a sense that that reality will hold true no matter who wins in November. For 26-year-old Zach Lombardo, an attorney who supports Libertarian Gary Johnson, there's another new reality. Just about everyone around this table grumbled about the tone of the campaign on social media. Lombardo says, get used to it.

ZACH LOMBARDO: It's not these candidates. I think it's - this is what social media looks like. It's, like, 24-hour news coverage plus one. It's - this is just the kind of dialogue that social media encourage.

GONYEA: It's not a question of whether it's uplifting or depressing. It just is.

LOMBARDO: No, this is just what an election looks like.

GONYEA: And at this table, even with differing political views, there was agreement that this unusual campaign is likely a preview of elections to come. Don Gonyea, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.