On economy, young voters sound like everybody else

San Francisco State University student Sonya Soltani writes "To Have a Voice!" on a backpack that asks "Why Vote?" The backpacks were distributed at an election rally at the university.

William Gallo may not fit your stereotype of a young American. To start, he's already started and owned a small business. Gallo said when he was in eighth grade he wrote and sold strategy guides for video games online. He advertised his business primarily on YouTube, and he said one month he made $300.

"That showed me how much money can be made on the Internet," said Gallo. It also got him started on a path to a business career. Gallo is studying health and business at Whittier College in California and says he wants to be an entrepreneur.

Unlike the stereotype of a young American, Gallo said his opinions on business and the economy can't necessarily be called liberal. "I feel like heavy taxes could hinder my business opportunities," he said.

While his opinions break stereotypes, Gallo's comments still reflect a new reality when it comes to young Americans this election season. They don't fit neatly into one group or another when it comes to how they feel about jobs and the economy.


Listen to more voices from this project at SoundCloud.com/youngvoterswest and at the websites of the four participating stations: KPCC in Los Angeles, KQED in San Francisco, Oregon Public Broadcasting in Portland and KPLU in Tacoma, Washington.


That diversity is what four public media organizations on the West Coast learned through interviews with dozens of Americans younger than 30 over the past few weeks, as part of "From the West Coast: Voices of Young Voters," a project designed to gauge the opinions of young voters on politics.

A Gallup poll in July found that only 58 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds say they intend to vote this year, the lowest of any age group. And yet, as many as 1 in 4 eligible voters this year are in that age group, according to NDN, a liberal think tank in Washington, D.C.

They include Zach Hawtof, 18, of Denver, who is studying computer science at University of California, Berkeley. Hawtof said he believes government officials should be cautious when it comes to regulating the economy.

"I believe, as an American, that we have a great system of capitalism and the free market really does work," he said. "But I do believe that there are cases where regulation does help out.

"It’s basically taking care of the free market as if the free market was a toddler and making sure it doesn’t touch the wrong things," Hawtof added.

Navia Mathew, 18, of Fremont, California, meanwhile, said she feels that government plays too big a role in the lives of Americans and that taxes need to be cut.

"I care about cutting taxes most. I think if we cut taxes, we won't go into deficit spending and we'll have a more balanced budget," she said.

Kahleim Giles, 18, of Oakland, California, meanwhile, says he could benefit from some assistance from the government. Giles is majoring in business information systems at San Jose State University.

"I really want to have a very intellectual job, I don’t want to just (work at) McDonald’s," he said. "I really want to work in my major, it’s just that I’m going broke.

"I hope that government gives me, at least a little bit of a break. If they give me that break, then I’ll be able to actually invest it and also be able to live in my apartment and to be able to actually move forward with my life," Giles added. "I can put all my money aside for my bills and I can just go look for work."

Ashley Williams, 24, of La Pine, Oregon, said she is looking for a presidential candidate who has experience working a hard job. Currently, she’s not planning to vote in the presidential election.

"I grew up in a motel and I've literally worked in that motel since I was four years old," Williams said. "Until I had the job I had now, every job I ever had I had to literally shed sweat and put your blood and your tears and your muscles, and you get off work and you're sore, and you're tired.

"I'd like to just see that (in a president), I'd like to have the confidence that that was something you actually came from to lead people,” she said.

About the author

Ian Hill is an online community engagement specialist for KQED News at KQED in San Francisco.

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