Beto O’Rourke probably has young voters on his side, but that doesn’t mean they’ll help him win

Chad Lyle

Democratic senate hopeful Beto O’Rourke has gained a lot of attention from younger voters, but their support may not help him win. 

Joshua Blank, manager of polling and research at the Texas Politics Project, said it is not surprising that O’Rourke appears to be favored by young people, who he said Democrats have an advantage with.

“Democratic candidates tend to hold policy positions that are more attractive to younger voters,” Blank said. “But I don’t know if there’s any evidence that (Beto) is outperforming a generic Democrat among young people in Texas.”

Blank also said that O’Rourke’s social media-heavy campaigning is an effort to draw young voters and appear more authentic.

“It is part of his campaign to generate attention through his use of new technology,” Blank said. “To the extent that it is speaking to young people or not, I think that’s an open question.”

Maya Patel, vice president of TX Votes, a nonpartisan organization devoted to increasing voter turnout, said she believes O’Rourke’s crowds are evidence of young voters’ “stronger than usual” enthusiasm for him.

“I think it’s pretty evident by how many people are showing up at the town halls, especially the ones that are around college campuses,” chemistry senior Patel said.

Patel also said she has seen evidence that student voters across the political spectrum are going to show up to vote in large numbers for the November midterms.

“There’s a lot of excitement and students talking about this election because of the political climate that this country is in,” Patel said. “TX Votes runs something called the Civic Engagement Alliance. Before we had a max of 40 organizations in this civic engagement alliance … this year we had our first CEA meeting and we had over 80 organizations join the CEA in the last month.”   

But government professor David Prindle points out encouraging young people to vote has been a challenge for many decades.

“The real question is, ‘Will these people turn out?’” Prindle said. “I can remember back to 1968, ‘They’re going to turn out for Eugene McCarthy. They’re going to turn out for Robert Kennedy.’ There’s always somebody on the ballot who seems to galvanize young people … and it hasn’t happened yet.”

Prindle added that O’Rourke could potentially be the candidate to lead a charge of young voters.

“Maybe Beto will be different,” Prindle said. “If I could foretell the future I wouldn’t be where I am in my office, I would be at the racetrack.”