College students feel like they’ve been given the shaft in this election

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
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Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

In an election where the youth vote could push Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton over the edge to victory, both candidates are grasping at straws to win the youth vote.

In a recent Quinnipiac poll, 57 percent of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 said they'd vote for Clinton, followed by 20 percent for Donald Trump, and 19 percent for Gary Johnson. (Just 2 percent said they'd vote for Jill Stein.)

College students are often a driving force for political campaigns, knocking on doors and making phone calls. But a recent survey by textbook-rental company Chegg found a surprisingly low level of enthusiasm among the college crowd. A whopping 77 percent of college students who support Donald Trump said they weren't willing to volunteer for him, while 70 percent of collegiate Hillary supporters said they weren't willing to volunteer for her.

I interviewed a few dozen students on my college campus (the University of Washington-Seattle) as well as a dozen students from other college campuses across the country.

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump is having a tough time attracting young people, but not just liberal and independent ones. Out of the 14 students I spoke with who identify as conservatives, only three planned on voting for Trump.

"First-time presidential voters, such as myself, were given the shaft this time around. Out of the roughly 320 million Americans, we’ve been given Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as options for the presidency."

Bennett, a political science major at the University of Florida, actually switched his party affiliation once Donald Trump secured the nomination (and will vote for Hillary Clinton in November).

Elizabeth, a William & Mary student, is writing in Marco Rubio because she believes Donald Trump's arrogance toward those who disagree with him could "jeopardize our national security and intensify conflicts."

Other conservatives I spoke with noted Trump's divisiveness, his flip-flopping ideologies, and how he isn't presidential.

Catherine, a conservative from the battleground state of Ohio, says she's "embarrassed" to admit she's a Republican during this election.

Out of the three conservative college students supporting Trump, all of them were incredibly hesitant. Michael from the University of Washington is voting for Trump because he's "the lesser of two evils." Jacqueline, a recent graduate at Southeast Missouri State University, is voting for Donald Trump only because she believes "Donald Trump's choice to the Supreme Court will benefit our generation more than Hillary's."

Moreover, nine out of the 14 conservatives I spoke with will be voting for Gary Johnson or Evan McMullin next month.

In an election where attracting new voters is important for conservatives, Donald Trump is seemingly shrinking conservatism to its core by turning off young people. Conservatives have struggled to receive support from youth for countless elections and Donald Trump is only making matters worse.

Hillary Clinton clearly has more support from college students and millennials than Donald Trump, but of the 19 students who planned on voting for Hillary that I spoke to, only seven were enthusiastic about it. Many suggested they were voting for her just to stop Donald Trump.

Additionally, I talked to three Jill Stein supporters, including Tanner from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who won't vote for Hillary because of her "deception and negative reputation." Many of the unenthused Hillary voters also said that "she's just a politician" and described why they "don't trust her." Out of those enthused to vote for Hillary, many of them stressed how she'd be the the first woman president and additionally, "carry Obama's legacy" forward.

The lack of enthusiasm shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone.

Hillary Clinton has flip-flopped on the important issues to college students, including gay marriage. More importantly, students want to vote for someone they trust and many believe she's lied repeatedly about her email scandal.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, shows no tolerance to opposing opinions, has flip-flopped on almost every issue, consistently makes sexist comments, has no detailed plans, and college students disagree with several of his policies, including the proposed Muslim ban and deportation of some immigrants. Additionally, at a time when many students are struggling to pay off college tuition, they don't see Donald Trump as someone who has had to struggle financially. Frankly, students just can't relate to him.

First-time presidential voters, such as myself, were given the shaft this time around. Out of the roughly 320 million Americans, we've been given Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as options for the presidency. To college students, we see the two mainstream candidates as fraudulent, inconsistent, lying, and unethical.

If Trump and Clinton want a strong youth base, they have a lot of work to do.

Commentary by Benji Backer, an 18-year-old conservative activist from Appleton, Wisconsin. He attends the University of Washington-Seattle and writes for him on Twitter @BenjiBacker.

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