Climate change fuels young voter worry in midterms


Construction crews rebuilding the beaches in Montauk, New York on March 14, 2018. Taken by: Marissa Corrado

As the 2018 midterm elections near, the nation is preparing to vote by discussing hot topics such as climate change, gun violence, education and more. Millennials have a history of low turnouts to the polls, but this election can be seen as a potential turning point as millennials become more concerned about climate change and engaged in politics.

A 2018 ecoAmerica survey found that climate change is a top priority for millennials. The survey showed that 87 percent of millennials feel very strongly about climate change, which exceeds the national average of 76 percent. The survey also showed that millennials are more engaged than any other generation when trying to make an impact on climate change.

Amanda Benizzi, 22, of Babylon, Long Island is one of those concerned. Her home was in one of the areas worst-affected by Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Benizzi and her family were without power for close to a month after Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29 and lived between friends’ homes during that time. “I had to commute from a different school district to mine because my district was out from school for about two weeks,” Benizzi said.

Superstorm Sandy left many areas surrounding New York City dealing with its aftermath for a long period of time. “I would go outside into my car and use the heater in my car to blow out my hair because there was no electricity,” said Lori Perdichizzi, 28, a graduate student at Hofstra University, who was left without power in her Queens home for almost 10 days.

With the effects of Superstorm Sandy still ingrained in their memories, these young voters have climate change on their minds as the midterms approach. This could be a wakeup call for politicians because millennials are becoming more concerned with the changing intensity of the earth’s climate. Climate change is not only impacting the strength of tropical storms, but also having an effect on temperature, sea level, beach erosion and day-to-day weather. According to NASA, the Earth’s climate changes due to greenhouse gas levels, which was proven with ice core samples that were taken from the glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica.

“Politicians don’t really touch up on climate change and when they do it’s very minimal compared to what I think what they should know.”- Lori Perdichizzi

Politicians have an opportunity to help educate young voters on the effects of climate change and how it can affect their future. “I’d definitely say I pay attention to a candidate’s stance on energy policies, [and] where they stand on state or federal environmental policies,” said Sarah Lippman, 22, of Hempstead, Long Island.

Many millennials and politicians, however, are concerned about the lack and quality of turnout at the polls from the millennial generation. “We still don’t have that great of a voter turnout. I feel like it is easy to get involved in the conversation, especially with social media,” said Benizzi. “I think this is a kind of social media political activism, and there might not be a link between feeling strongly on something on social media and turning out for midterm elections or something like that.”

The percentage of eligible millennials who voted in the 2014 midterm election and 2016 presidential election.

According to the Center for Research and Information on Civic Learning and Engagement,  only 9.9 million millennials voted in the 2014 midterm elections, which is only 21.3 percent of eligible millennial voters. According to PEW Research Center, though, millennial voting is on the rise.  Just above half of the eligible voters in this demographic went to the polls in the 2016 presidential elections, totaling 34 million. 

Traditionally young voters tend to stay home for midterms, but research from PEW  predicts that by the 2020 presidential elections, millennials will hold the largest percentage of votes.

While there are more millennial voters now, some believe they are not informed enough and are easily influenced by propaganda and slander. “I have a major fear of millennials not hearing the truth and that gives them an automatic bias,” said Angelo Ferrara, 74, Town of North Hempstead City Councilmen. “I would love for everybody to make an educated vote, but it is so slanted and tainted now.”

While Ferrara typically has conservative views on millennials, he is more liberal when it comes to climate change. “I do believe that climate change is something that should be discussed because it is an ongoing problem that we as people are going to have to deal with every day,” he said.

Some millennials say they are afraid that others in their generation will stay home, but they understand that they have the chance to make a big impact on the future.“If everyone realized that they have the power to make a difference, instead of this idea of, ‘well I’m just one person,’ they’d see that one person plus one person plus one person starts to build into these massive movements of people,” Lippman said. “It’s inspiring to see that sort of impact.”

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