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Gen Z voters in Iowa size up the 2020 presidential candidates

Gen Z voters size up the 2020 candidates

With less than three months to go before the Iowa caucuses, you don't have to look far to see signs of campaign season all over Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Student John Altendorf, who has decorated his frat room with political souvenirs, estimates 14 presidential hopefuls have visited the campus so far. 

"We get to shake hands with all of these candidates, and one of them could be possibly be president one day," said Altendorf. "Whether you're on the left or the right, it's still a really cool experience as a student." 

As part of the Iowa Caucus Project, Altendorf and his fraternity brother, Tanner Halleran, are documenting 2020's first presidential nominating contest. They were among seven students who spoke to CBS News about the upcoming election season.

Student Emilyn Crabbe supports South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. She lists unity and education as her top issues.

Education is also a top issue for Jackie Sayers, who supports California Senator Kamala Harris.

Darby Holroyd also supports Harris. She lists reproductive rights and gun legislation as her top issues. "I've never lived in a world without mass shootings," said Holroyd.

For Sigournie Brock, health care and climate rank as most important. She's leaning towards former Vice President Joe Biden, but is not completely decided.

Neither is Tanner Halleran who is leaning towards Buttigieg and is worried about the rural economy.

John Altendorf, a Republican, supports President Trump and considers agricultural policy his top issue.

Ireland Larsen, a volunteer for New Jersey Senator Cory Booker's campaign, is most worried about criminal justice reform.

According to a 2019 study by Pew Research, Generation Z (those in their teens and early 20s) and millennials (mid-20s through age 39) make up around 37% of eligible voters and tend to hold more liberal views, compared to older generations. Historically, younger voters turn out at lower rates compared to older Americans. However, youth turnout surged during the 2018 midterms. Democratic candidates hope that enthusiasm carries into 2020. 

"I think there's a lot of passion," said Crabbe. "I think a lot of people feel like we're at a crossroads we've never been at before."

"I know people our age — many of us weren't able to vote that time," said Holroyd, referring to 2016. "That's an energizing factor in the event they weren't pleased with the result in 2016."

Altendorf, who is  president of the Drake College Republicans, said he believes youth enthusiasm will hinge on who Democrats nominate.

Despite differing political views and candidate preferences, the Drake students are united in their enthusiasm for the primary cycle.

"I think it's a good thing we have so many candidates running right now, because a lot of students, they have more candidates to identify with," said Sayers.

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