What Happened to the Young Voters Focused on Guns?

What Happened to the Young Voters Focused on Guns?


And in a sense, this is not an entirely new phenomenon. Less than a month after the Parkland shooting, a Gallup survey found that race relations was tied with gun control as the most-cited issue of concern among Americans under 30.

Charlie Kelly, Everytown’s senior political adviser, said that emphasizing the links between racial justice and gun policy could be essential to driving home a message that resonates this year. “These issues are inextricably linked,” he said. “When we put out a call to our supporters to support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, we saw students take action at twice the rate of any previous action.”

Mr. Kelly said that Everytown’s own research this year had shown that gun violence remains an issue organizers think they can win on, and one with particular appeal to young voters. “Gun safety is especially powerful and persuasive at mobilizing young voters, communities of color, suburban women,” Mr. Kelly said, pointing to internal polling and message-testing that the organization recently undertook in battleground states, including Texas.

“Gun safety messaging was the most effective and resonant among young voters, 18 to 34, and independents,” he added.

The midterms in 2018 drew high levels of participation across the board, but the spike was especially large for young people. Among voters under 30, turnout doubled from 2014 to 2018, according to the United States Elections Project at the University of Florida. Not since the 1980s had young people made up so big a share of the midterm electorate.

The highest-profile Democrats who put gun control at the center of their campaigns — such as Andrew Gillum, the candidate for Florida governor, and Mr. O’Rourke, then running for Senate in Texas — lost. But amid a Democratic surge in congressional races, advocates reported broad success: In 43 federal races in which Everytown and the N.R.A. endorsed opposing candidates, the Everytown candidate won 33 of them.

“This isn’t the end of the race, this is permission to start,” David Hogg, a Parkland student who had by then become a spokesman for the movement, said after the midterms. “The shooting at Stoneman Douglas has all been training for us on how to get corrupt politicians out of power.”



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