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WI Part of Push to Engage With Young Voters

 Young voters a growing part of the electorate
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Young voters a growing part of the electorate

Vice President Kamala Harris is embarking on a monthlong college tour, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to hear what students are concerned about.

It comes as think tanks and civic engagement groups track the growing influence of younger voters. The Brookings Institution said by the 2028 presidential election, people under the age of 45 will serve as the majority of U.S. voters.

Dakota Hall, executive director of the Alliance for Youth Action, said young voters want "transformational change," and will not be satisfied unless there are what he describes as sweeping reforms relating to democracy.

"These are folks who went to high school and witnessed nothing but news coverage on their different social media feeds -- of Trump, of dysfunction, of government shutdowns -- and then a global pandemic," Hall explained. "They've seen the worst of what this country can be."

The Alliance said young voters in battleground states are heavily focused on two issues. For more progressive young voters, nearly two in three see safeguarding abortion access as a top priority. Those identifying as more conservative see bringing inflation under control as their top issue.

No date has been finalized yet for the Vice President's Wisconsin visit.

Michael Hais, former vice president of the consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates, said political attitudes and party identification tend to be formalized by young voters in their late teens and early twenties. He added a family's political values will influence a young person but also noted political events can shape their outlook.

"Many of them may identify initially as independents, but they lean toward one party or another," Hais observed. "Once the attitudes are formed, and once people begin to use them in their political behavior and their voting, they tend to firm up pretty consistently."

Hais added the development of younger voters' political attitudes today will have an impact for decades to come.

Meanwhile, Brookings Institution researchers point out younger Americans are tilting the electoral playing field strongly toward Democrats. They say even though the party failed to retain its U.S. House majority in the 2022 election, the preferences of young voters strongly limited the size of the new Republican majority.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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