Media Advisory: WFU expert: Presidential candidates engaging young voters

Will young voters continue to “Feel the Bern?” What can Hillary Clinton and Republican candidates do to gain youth support?

Katy Harriger, an expert on youth voting and professor and chair of politics and international affairs at Wake Forest University, says Bernie Sanders’ popularity among young adults is likely to persist “as long as he keeps saying the things he’s saying about the economy, the role of money in politics and the need for political change.”

Clinton, says Harriger, faces an uphill battle for youth support during the primaries: “I think she is unlikely to have a massive swing of these voters away from Sanders during the primaries, but if he fades in the upcoming primaries that are in less advantageous places for him, her job will be to persuade them to support her despite their disappointment.”

Republicans have an even tougher row to hoe, she says, “because this is the most diverse and tolerant/accepting of difference generation ever and so the positions they take on immigration, abortion and gay marriage are unlikely to resonate with most young people, including college students. Rubio’s youth and ethnicity may give him a slight advantage over other Republicans but since most young people and Hispanics are voting in the Democratic primaries, this isn’t likely to make much difference for him.”

Harriger studies political participation and voting among young people and is the co-author of a new multi-year study showing that college students who participate in public deliberation and learn to talk with those with differing viewpoints are more politically involved 10 years after graduation. Harriger is the co-author of Speaking of Politics: Preparing College Students for Democratic Citizenship through Deliberative Dialogue and three other books. She teaches courses on American politics.

Looking for comment on other election-related topics? Visit Wake Forest’s Election 2016 faculty experts guide.

Looking for an example of how youth are engaging across difference? Check out Wake the Vote.


About Wake Forest University

Wake Forest University combines the best traditions of a small liberal arts college with the resources of a large research university. Founded in 1834, the school is located in Winston-Salem, N.C. Learn more about Wake Forest at

Categories: Media Advisory