ASU's Tempe campus has recently seen some of the biggest stars in politics come speak to the student body. What is most surprising, however, is that the political figures coming to ASU are not necessarily just Arizona candidates.
Politicians such as Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump Jr., Bernie Sanders and Chelsea Clinton have all spoken to the student body at ASU and encouraged Sun Devils to get the vote out for their respective election cycles.
It is apparent that the University is a political battleground, and both sides of the aisle are vying for the ASU student vote.
During the 2016 presidential election, Chelsea Clinton spoke to ASU students on Oct.19, 2016. Soon after, Donald Trump Jr. spoke at the SDFC on Oct. 27, 2016, and lastly, democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton held a rally on campus on Nov. 2, 2016.
This highly contested 2018 midterm season has also had its own share of political activism on campus, with Bernie Sanders speaking to ASU students in support of David Garcia, a democratic candidate for governor.
The presence of the most recent election cycles on campus have not been solely because of Arizona’s political uncertainty. Candidates from both sides of the aisle are attempting to sway the ASU student vote in their favor.
This is evident by the back-to-back rallies during the 2016 election cycle that seemed to be done in an attempt to outshine the other and leave an impression on students.
It is clear that the decision to hold these high-stake political rallies at ASU is not about location convenience, but about an neglected demographic that has the potential to shape the outcomes of the 2018 and future elections.
"They see the power that young voters hold," Belen Sisa, the media manager for NextGen Arizona, said. "We are currently the largest voting bloc in all of America and we actually have 1.1 million eligible 18-35 year olds in the state of Arizona that could literally decide every single election up and down the ballot."
If candidates were not interested in the ASU student vote, they would likely hold rallies at larger venues that would resonate to a more diversified audience as opposed to holding them on the Tempe campus. An example being the recent Donald Trump rally in Mesa that was held at the International Air Response hangar at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
Another interesting aspect about the these rallies is how they centralize their focus on the student body by prioritizing admission to students. During the Bernie Sanders and David Garcia rally in October, students were the first to be granted admission and were separated in a different line from the general audience.
Although all of the ASU campuses fall under different districts, the student population at ASU holds more power in influencing elections than they may actually realize. Within the next few years the current college students, that generally identify as Millennials and Generation Z, will all have the right to vote in elections.
This combined with research that shows that 55 percent of millennials identify as Democrats or Independents who lean Democrat, makes this demographic one that the Democrats will want to secure and the Republicans will want to sway.
With ASU being one of the largest universities in the country, it should not be a surprise that it has emerged as a new battleground that candidates are capitalizing on – as they should be.
"We focus specifically on youth voters and what we’re seeing is that other campaigns are going to start to take our lead," Sisa said. "We took a risk on a bloc of voters that are very unreliable to other organizations and to other campaigns, and that's the reason why its going to be the way that organizing works from here on out."
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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