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College students may be more politically polarized

A year into Donald Trump’s presidency, experts say college students may be more politically active. 

Pew Research Center reported that during the 2016 election, Millennial and Generation X voters edged out older generations at the booth. Millennial voters are now voting more, which may be because they are motivated to be politically active.   

Millennials, or those 18 to 35 years old in 2016, cast 34 million votes in November 2016, up from 18.4 million votes cast in 2008, according to a Pew Research Center report.

“Despite the larger size of the Millennial generation, the Millennial vote has yet to eclipse the Gen X vote, as 35.7 million Gen Xers (ages 36 to 51 in 2016) reported voting last year,” the Pew Research Center report reads.

With an increasing political presence — and with Trump having served just over one year in office — some students see the current political climate in the U.S. as a reason students may be becoming both more active and polarized. Dawson Mecum, a freshman studying journalism who runs a politically conservative blog called The Right News Site, said he feels as if the division brings out extremes in both Republicans and Democrats.

“You have the alt-right and then you have the extreme protesters on the left,” Mecum,
who identifies as a conservative — which he believes fuels individualism and personal responsibility — said. “At the same time, it gets people more involved, whether you’re right or left. It motivates people to become activists. It’s a very healthy thing to do.”

Anthony Eliopoulos, a senior studying political science and journalism, is running for president of the state board of College Democrats of Ohio. Eliopoulos said he believes that on the surface, students may seem to be more polarized, but they actually share common ground. 

“If you mention Trump, people will either get really upset or supportive,” Eliopoulos said in an email. “Same goes for if you mention the Democratic or Republican Party. However, that brings me back to the varying levels, because if you dig a little bit deeper and go past the partisan and identity politics, people are definitely not that polarized as it may seem.”

Eliopoulos said he has friends from both political parties and believes there is room for both to work together. 

“That’s the best part about the nation we live in,” Eliopoulos said in an email. “It may seem like it’s super fragile, but really can be effective if we join forces.”

Pete Couladis, the chairman of the Athens County Republicans, said Republican students are visible and out there, even if they are perceived to be fewer in number than Democratic students.

“They work behind the scenes, and they help people get registered to vote, and they help candidates and things like that,” Couladis said.

Lauren Elliott-Dorans, an assistant lecturer of political science, said she has seen more students becoming polarized. She said anywhere between 35 to 40 percent of students in each of her classes will identify as Republican.

“What I’ve seen over the years is I think that conservative students become more polarized,” Elliot-Dorans said. “When one party has the presidency, that emboldens members of that party. I think they become more comfortable becoming more vocal.”


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