(CNN)Imagine this is your first election. The first time you have a real voice and your choices are Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.You think, “Really?”
It’s a feeling that binds a lot of first-time voters — many of them millennials — left, right and center, who are looking for inspiration and not finding it.
They’ll sway elections when they start to vote. Both millennials and baby boomers make up about 31% of the population, although the younger group slightly outnumber the older. But the more senior generation traditionally votes in much great numbers. In 2012 only 46% of eligible millennial voters cast a ballot, but 63% of boomers told Pew Research they went to the polls.
We visited three of this election’s “battleground” states — Ohio, Florida and North Carolina — and sat down with millennials whose futures are at stake.Most said they are not excited to vote and are unhappy with their choices in 2016, which for many is their introduction to politics.
Young Republican in Florida
Devon Leasure is driven; she is on track to graduate from college in the middle of her junior year and hopes to start on her master’s degree in business immediately thereafter. She is poised, smart and personable. She is a Republican with a capitol R and is a proud member of the Selfie Generation, another term for millennials.
“As a generation we are individualistic, we are concerned with ourselves, our job security, our paycheck. What’s good for me? Not what’s good for everyone, what’s good for me right now, today?” Leasure explained to us at her sorority house, where she’s vice president. “A lot of people forget that that’s what the Republican party is about.”
This sentiment was echoed by some of her friends and sorority sisters at the University of Florida. While Leasure has left-leaning friends, most of the ones we met were grew up in GOP homes, are themselves Republican and voting for Donald Trump. They aren’t thrilled by his campaign and say his rhetoric is extreme and can be offensive. But they are impressed by what they describe as Trump’s solid track record of creating jobs — something this group, which will soon be on the job market, finds particularly appealing.
“We are graduating and it’s almost like a congratulatory thing when you graduate with a job. After all the money we put into schooling, a job should be a realistic thing. And it’s not right now,” Brianna Frey, one of Leasure’s sorority sisters, explained.
Leasure agreed.”I’m really concerned with being able to find a job, secure that job and then really reap the benefits of my hard work,” she said. “A candidate’s tax plan is very important to me because I believe that you should work hard and earn what you deserve.”
But they differ from much of the GOP platform on social issues. They described themselves as “socially progressive;” they don’t oppose gay marriage and were not definitively against abortion. They didn’t think the federal government shouldn’t meddle in those kinds of issues and they didn’t think that Trump, if elected, would be able to uproot the social policies that were already in place.
Leasure says a lot of her peers described their generation as “fiscally conservative but socially liberal.” She argued that growing up with an African-American president, albeit a liberal, really changed her generation’s perspective on what is possible in the world.
“As a woman I feel like there is opportunity for me and that there aren’t as many barriers in my way,” she argued. “We are just as a whole more tolerant, more accepting, more willing to negotiate change on a humanitarian basis.”
Young Democrat in Ohio
You can’t wipe the smile off 19-year-old Dal Davis’ face until you get him started on the state of the current election. He is frustrated and feels disenfranchised, like a fake. That’s because like so many young voters, he was feeling the Bern.
“I was sold a golden dream with Bernie Sanders. And now since the DNC really screwed him and cheated him we are only left with Hilary Clinton,” he says, referring to hacked emails that suggested Democratic National Committee staffers preferred Clinton over Sanders.
Like Sanders, Davis is a self-proclaimed independent. But while Sanders has endorsed Clinton, Davis describes her as “criminal” and Trump as “evil.” He believes that the Electoral College is corrupt and that neither Clinton or Trump will protect his rights as an African-American gay man.
Davis grew up on welfare in Durham, North Carolina. His mother was just 19 years old when he was born and she fell ill when he was in grade school. They moved around a lot, at one point living in a shack that he described as a “tool shed” with an outhouse in back. His hard childhood characterizes why he feels so strongly about social issues like welfare and student loans. He fears not being able to climb out of the pit of student debt he’s accumulating from his undergraduate degree.
“I have scholarships and such and I’ve worked really hard for those. It’s still not enough to make me feel secure about my life and the future. And then I still have graduate school to go on,” Davis said.
Davis is studying music at Brevard College, a small liberal arts school, nestled just outside Pisgah National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains of western North Carolina. He wants to get his master’s in production and to one day to write music for pop stars. Davis has a tight-knit group of friends there who also has mixed feelings about casting their ballot this November:
“We have two candidates who are not representative of the population as a whole,” his friend Amanda McBriar explained.
Davis’ friends describe themselves as being “robbed” of their first voting experience but they still plan to cast a ballot this November for Clinton, who they see Clinton as the “lesser of two evils.”
“I don’t feel passionately about what Hillary stands for but at the same time I feel very passionately against what Trump stands for,” McBriar said.
Ultimately, Davis has also decided to vote for Clinton this November. He sees her as the “most predictable” option.