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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

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Young voters in Texas trending left, poll shows


Iqra Rafey/The Cougar

Voters within Texas are increasingly young and tend to vote Democrat, according to a recent analysis conducted by the polling firm TargetSmart.

While the state has historically voted Republican in major elections, the new data shows that Democrats now make up 47 percent of voters under 25, up from 34 percent.

For many young voters, the political environment throughout their middle school and high school experience deeply shaped how they view politics. 

“I got involved with politics when I was a freshman in high school after the Parkland Shooting,” said political science senior Allyson Campos. “I realized that the school shooting drills we do were not normal, and lawmakers are not protecting us.” 

Campos went on to say that she felt like many politicians were out of touch with the hopes and fears of the younger generation and expressed her belief that voting blue best represents the ideas most important to Generation Z. 

Other students echoed Campos’ frustration with the current establishment, and some say it drove them out of a previously apathetic stance on politics. 

“It started with Trump, but it didn’t end with him,” said media production senior Francisco Alvarez. “I have friends and family directly impacted by the rulings on abortion, immigration, and LGBT rights. I take politics personally because it directly hurts the people I love.”

To Alvarez, voting blue is only part of the story. He believes that young people have become more ideologically aware, and the feeling that politics affect them personally has driven them to become more active. 

Political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus says that the increasing number of young, Democratic voters is not due to new arrivals from other states. Rather, the source of this surge comes from within Texas itself.

“Most of these young, progressive voters are homegrown,” Rottinghaus said. “They have grown up in Texas under Republican-dominated state politics and want alternatives.”

This surge is not limited to just producing young first-time voters, however. For many newly active students, raising awareness and advocating for the communities important to them takes priority. 

“I believe that everything is political,” said freshman political science major Winnie Pham. “My grandparents immigrated here after the Vietnam war because of a sponsorship they received. Because of those sponsors, my whole existence here is the result of politics.”

Pham said that this awareness drove her to register more than 50% of her graduating senior class in a voter drive she organized. She continues to work with the Asian American community to help them navigate local elections and voter registration. 

For many students, the recent Supreme Court ruling that removed federal protections for abortion rights made politics deeply personal. 88 percent of young voters support some form of abortion, but it remains to be seen how much this shift will impact local elections.

“This shift won’t be swift, but it will be steady,” Rottinghaus said. “It takes time for demographic changes to affect election outcomes, especially in a state as big as Texas.”

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