Will student activism shift to voter turnout?

After a gunman killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, young activists took center stage.


Outraged students made the news media rounds, replacing the adult analysts, experts and lobbyists who usually direct the national post-tragedy conversations. On March 24, students across the country—and the world—protested gun violence as part of The March for Our Lives movement.


But, will the spike in student activism translate to a strong turnout in the November midterms?


“In typical midterm elections, younger voters tend to vote at lower rates than during presidential election years,” wrote UT Political Science Professor Anthony Daniels.


But this year, he expects youth turnout to be higher. In part, because of the national outcry after the Parkland shooting.


“Recent protests surrounding gun control reveal the intensity of feeling that many young people have.”


“[This] intensity,” Daniels wrote “is usually a very solid predictor of voting behavior. When people are engaged and excited…they tend to participate.”


One student, Hope Talbert, a senior at Sylvania Southview High School, will cast a ballot for the first time since turning 18 in the upcoming November midterms.


“I 100 percent plan on voting and I know all of my friends are too,” wrote Talbert.


“This is a time where a lot of people, as well as myself, feel that our opinions actually matter and can make a legitimate difference.”


Jordan Topoleski, a student in Talbert’s graduating class, plans on voting because “it’s the purest form of democracy.”


And he expects to see others his age at the polls.


“I do full heartedly believe this will spur one of the biggest youth turnouts we have historically seen,” Topeleski wrote. “Youth, more so than ever, have taken charge and begun to see how important it is to stand up for what we believe in.”


But, he added, today’s activism is not just a harbinger of an increase in student voting, it’s a move towards active conversation.


“It has generally brought political discourse and involvement to the everyday ‘table talk’ level of this younger generation, and this is HUGE!”


Ryan Pinski, a junior at Sylvania Northview High School, spoke to a large crowd during Toledo’s March For our Lives event.


Just about a week later, he reiterated what he said that day.


“Personally, I don’t feel our lives should be taken from us by somebody else,” Pinski wrote. “I shouldn’t be scared to go to school every day in fear of being shot.”


“Too many people die every day because of guns and I don’t feel like things should continue on the way they are,” he added.


Although not yet old enough to vote, Pinski strongly encourages those who are able, to do so.


Penny Tullis, the youth development director at the YWCA of Northwest Ohio was one of the few adults who facilitated Toledo’s march.


After seeing students like Pinski speak out against the stagnant politics of gun laws, she “can’t imagine that it won’t impact the polls in November.”


Dominic Spinale, an NRA member and local shooting instructor whose Facebook page includes a picture of an assault rifle placed on top of an American Flag, disagrees.


 “Most of the students…don’t even know what an assault weapon is [or] what they do,” Spinale said.


“I do not think their movement will have any effect on our gun rights,” he added. “I’m not sure if more will be at the polls. By November, I truly believe this will have died down.”


But, the midterms are seven months away, and as Daniels noted, political change can be unpredictable.

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