Though Arizona stands as a "battleground" state, the voting tendencies of millennials and Gen Z could have a significant impact on the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in Arizona, according to a Democratic National Committee (DNC) campus ambassador.
The Democratic National Convention is working to target younger generations of voters and minority groups in the upcoming election. Taylor Mackie, a campus ambassador for the DNC, was part of a summer program called Organizing Core 2020 tailored to college seniors to help them prepare to be employed by the DNC next year.
Mackie said she thinks the 2020 election will be in the hands of the younger voters.
"(The DNC is) investing in young people," she said. "The DNC realizes that it made a mistake in 2016 by kind of ignoring the younger voters."
The polarized opinions in politics are causing many younger voters to register as independent, making their vote the most critical for candidates to win over in the 2020 election, according to Alex Butler, a senior majoring in history.
"It's so unfortunate to see how divided our political parties are at the moment and it's really discouraging for some people, for young people, to even get involved because of how ugly it is," Butler said. "Our independents, millennials, and minorities are the key in November 2020."
Many Democratic candidates are working to make themselves more appealing to the youth population by trying to connect with them through selfies and social media, according to Mackie.
"The candidates are trying to appeal to the younger generation because they know that that's what they need to rely on," Mackie said. "Elizabeth Warren is taking selfies with everybody that comes to her rallies. She's trying to appeal to the younger generation. Pete Buttigieg is casting ads and promos on Spotify in battleground states."
Mariana Pena, an ASU senior majoring in political science and president of the campus Young Democrats, said that younger voters shifted the demographics in favor of Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat who turned Arizona blue in the 2018 midterms.
"There was an entire student team that worked for the democratic parties at our whole goal was to help work Kyrsten Sinema and down-ballot initiatives. And there were several teams across the state, especially in Tucson and Flagstaff," Peña said. "The work that we did individually really helped get Sinema into office because if we didn't do that work the turnout for Kyrsten wouldn't have been great enough to get her into office."
Simon Williams, a sophomore majoring in journalism and mass communications, said he thinks many young voters will side with where they see the most social reform.
Williams said that while millennial and younger voters are one of the largest voting blocs in America, "They are least likely to turn out, which is just interesting. There's a lean progressive, whether that be with the Democratic Party or Republican Party, whether you're registered or not. The tendency is to lean towards progressive ideas."
The youth population has been mobilized for many reasons including the recent increase in young activists, including Greta Thunberg, and youth-based movements such as March for Our Lives, according to Williams.
"These are organizations founded by young people and people concerned with young people and they're promoting causes that directly affect the lives of young Americans and their families every single day," Williams said. "There is a swell of interest in our youth. So, it's absolutely had a positive effect on increasing awareness, advocacy, and eventually turn out."
The ASU College Republicans are setting up tables to talk to students and show them how they can get involved. ASU senior and political science major and club president Jeremiah Willet said he believes that the younger voting population is what the 2020 election will be dependent on.
"We tell college students about College Republicans and where do they can get involved. Whether that's just educating them about what we stand for or, you know, getting more involved in politics. Even talking about, 'Do you plan on going forward, and if you do plan on voting for this person, why do you plan to vote to that person?' We're currently registering voters as well. And so, as we get closer, we're going to pick up those efforts and make sure that everyone is going to the voting booths," Willett said.
The divisive nature of the current president Donald Trump also is a reason for younger generations to come out and vote, according to Williams. Trump's past as a reality TV star makes more people interested in his actions while he is in office.
"I feel like a lot of normal standard Americans that were not previously interested in politics, now they perk their ears up to more political issues. It was an oddball story that caught the attention of the American population. We saw a higher turnout in 2016 than before, we saw a... higher turnout in 2018. I think that should be the case for 2020," Williams said.
The youth of America has the motivation to vote in the 2020 election and change the political affiliation of Arizona. ASU freshman majoring in journalism and mass communications Camille Parrish said she thinks the youth that is registered independents will have the greatest effect on the outcome of the 2020 election.
"I think they're going to be kind of the biggest factors in our elections because right now there's such a divide that nobody wants to be affiliated with either party," Parrish said. "I think independent voting is becoming the norm. I think they'll have a pretty big sway in this election, and they'll have a left-leaning sway,"