Texas voters are getting younger and leaning toward Democrats, according to a recent poll analysis carried out by the opinion research institute TargetSmart.
While the state has historical elected Republican in major elections, new data shows democrats now make up 47 percent of voters under 25, up from 34 percent.
For many young voters, the political environment during their middle and high school experience has had a lasting impact on their view of politics.
“I got into politics when I was a freshman out of high school Parkland Shoot‘ said Allyson Campos, senior political scientist. “I realized that the school shooting drills that we do were not normal and the legislature is not protecting us.”
Campos went on to say that she felt many politicians had lost touch with the hopes and fears of the younger generation, and expressed her belief that choosing blue best reflects the ideas that matter most to Gen Z are.
Other students echoed Campos’ frustration with the current establishment, and some say it pushed them out of a previously apathetic attitude towards politics.
“It started with Trump, but it didn’t end with him,” said Francisco Alvarez, senior media production. “I have friends and family who are directly affected by the rulings on abortion, immigration and LGBT rights. I take politics personally because it directly hurts the people I love.”
For Alvarez, choosing blue is only part of the story. He believes young people have become more ideologically aware and the feeling that politics influences she personally pushed her to become more active.
Political science professor Brandon Rottinghaus says the rising number of young Democratic voters is not due to newcomers from other states. Rather, the source of this increase comes from within Texas itself.
“Most of these young, progressive voters are local,” Rottinghaus said. “They grew up in Texas under Republican-dominated state politics and want alternatives.”
However, this increase is not limited to the production of young first-time voters. For many newly active students, raising awareness and advocating for the communities important to them is a priority.
“I believe that everything is political,” said Winnie Pham, a freshman major in political science. “My grandparents immigrated here after the Vietnam War because of a sponsorship. Because of these sponsors, my whole existence here is the result of politics.”
Pham said that awareness led her to enroll more than 50% of her senior class in an election campaign she organized. She continues to work with the Asian American community to assist them with local elections and voter registration.
For many students, the most recent Supreme Court Verdict which lifted federal protections for abortion rights, made politics deeply personal. 88 percent of young voters support some form of abortion, but it remains to be seen how much this shift will affect local elections.
“This shift will not be rapid, but it will be steady,” Rottinghaus said. “It takes time for changing demographics to affect election results, especially in a state as big as Texas.”