Chelsea Clinton is taking a new role with elections this year by encouraging students and millennials across the country to vote in the upcoming presidential elections.
The 36-year-old daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton relates to the over 75 million other millennials across the U.S.
Millennials make up the largest percentage of Americans, reaching nearly 24 percent of the American population, according to U.S. Census Bureau 2015 population estimates.
Clinton hosted a recent press call with student journalists on National Voter Registration Day and encouraged politically apathetic students to ask themselves a question: “What do I care about?”
Clinton, who calls herself a “self-identified progressive,” said students and millennials need to be looking to the future and choose political leaders who will support them in issues that will affect them longterm.
“I just would urge people to think what really matters to them,” Clinton said, “whether that’s something in their own lives or their family’s lives, or something they feel like raises the values of our country.”
Throughout her travels to various universities across the country, Clinton said she has heard millennials question issues such as education, criminal justice, climate change and healthcare. She hopes students will look at the political circumstance of the country they live in and be willing to take initiative.
Co-president of the BYU College Democrats club Evan Woods agrees students should be more aware and politically active, but said BYU students may stand out against many other millennials with regard to what political hot topics interest them.
“On the one hand, I feel like they’re millennials and they feel some of those same needs that other college students have, but at the same time they’re Mormon,” the senior public health major said. “When people think social justice, they think of championing for a lot of gay and transgender rights, which isn’t traditionally what BYU students vote for.”
Woods also said many BYU students, unlike most millennials, aren’t particularly concerned about the price of higher education because of BYU’s affordability and the prevalent idea of self-sufficiency in Mormon culture.
Woods said the issues many BYU students are concerned about are increasing pay for teachers, helping refugees and improving the immigration process.
Students of International Development ambassador Laurie Batschi, a junior studying international relations, said BYU is unique from other schools because of its inexpensive tuition prices. This cuts out a lot of student debt in comparison to many other schools across the country, she said.
“It’s super interesting with BYU because we are a student populous, but we are totally Mormon conservative populated,” Batschi said.
Batschi said students she interacts with at BYU are overall less concerned about specific policies and more concerned with their sentiment felt toward each presidential candidate.
“I think there’s less emphasis on experience and policies and more in trusting that your leader is a good person with your same values,” Batschi said. “That’s why a ton of BYU students are going third party, which is a super interesting phenomenon I think.”
Republican club president Lee-Ann Bender, a senior studying political science, agrees with Batschi. She said students most often support the candidate they agree with as an individual and are less concerned about policy issues. Bender thinks the divisiveness of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has created a discussion among students about the characteristics of each of the presidential nominees instead of one about improving policies.
Bender said in upcoming months, the club will host state leaders to encourage civic participation among BYU students. Bender said she hopes students will begin to care more about politics — specifically on a local level.
“Especially in Provo — if (students) were to participate — they’d have such a voice in local politics because the turnout is so low and our numbers are so big,” Bender said. “We could totally affect the vote on a local level.”
Woods said one of the best things students can do to get involved politically is carry their excitement from the upcoming presidential races to local politics.
“A lot of people get excited and revved up about presidential races, but, in reality, the politics that will probably affect them more are local races,” Woods said.
Woods believes if students want a change in education, they should focus more on who they vote into the school board than who they vote for in the upcoming national election.
“Because let’s face it,” Woods said. “Hillary’s probably going to have less influence over Utah schools than a person on the Utah school board.”
Woods encourages students to reach outside of the polarization of this year’s campaign and focus more on fixing problems they see in government.
In the press call, Clinton also encouraged students and millennials to get involved on a local level instead of simply focusing on their frustration they have with the upcoming presidential elections.
“If people are frustrated by (the two-party system), they can either work to change that by themselves, advocating for a third party platform or they can work to change the character of the Democratic and Republican parties,” Clinton said. “If you look at the evolution of the parties over time, they certainly look very different today than they did even 20 years ago or 40 years ago or 60 years ago.”
Clinton said if students are frustrated by a “lack of progress in our country,” then they should consider running for office. She recommends running for federal offices, mayor or city council, depending on what issues they are most interested in.
“Whatever your friends or the people that you talk to on your campus care about, all of that is at stake in this election,” Clinton said. “And really in every election they will have the chance to vote in, whether its at the presidential level, governor or state legislature or mayor or city council. Who is elected to public office really matters as to whether or not we’re expanding opportunity, whether or not we’re helping to keep our country safe.”
Clinton is joined in her efforts to push students and millennials to register to vote by her mother, Tim Kaine, Michelle Obama, President Obama, Senator Bernie Sanders and others.
“My mom’s campaign — like all worth doing in life — is definitely a team sport,” Clinton said.