STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Shootings like the one we've just been hearing about are part of what has jarred many young people into political awareness. After the shooting in Parkland, Fla., students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took the lead in the debate over gun violence. They aimed to mobilize young voters and change the face of the midterm elections. How did that work out? Here's NPR's Brakkton Booker.
BRAKKTON BOOKER, BYLINE: Alessia Modjarrad is a freshman at Indiana University and a first-time voter. She worked hard to get what she calls common sense gun candidates elected.
ALESSIA MODJARRAD: Unfortunately, Liz Watson, the campaign I was volunteering for, and Senator Joe Donnelly both lost a seat.
BOOKER: Democrat Liz Watson, running for the U.S. House, fell short trying to unseat Indiana Republican Trey Hollingsworth. And Democrat Joe Donnelly's Senate seat flipped when the GOP's Mike Braun bested him. She's also bummed about another race a thousand miles away.
MODJARRAD: If we're talking about the Texas Senate race, man, poor O'Rourke.
BOOKER: That's Beto O'Rourke, the Democrat who lost to Republican Ted Cruz. Modjarrad is excited that Democrats will control the House in the next Congress, which she hopes will pass further gun control laws.
MODJARRAD: I think that if the Democrats want to keep not only the support from young voters but this enthusiasm from young voters, that they're going to need to work with young voters to start drafting gun sense legislation.
BOOKER: According to data released yesterday from CIRCLE, a political research and engagement center at Tufts University, initial estimates show nearly a third of 18 to 29 year olds cast a ballot this year. Those figures are not definitive. But if they hold true, it would mean millions more young people showed up to the polls than in 2014. John Della Volpe has a theory why - gun violence.
JOHN DELLA VOLPE: It is a central motivating factor in the awakening of this generation for sure.
BOOKER: Della Volpe is the director of polling at Harvard's Institute of Politics. He says in surveys he conducted with young people weeks before the election, gun control was a top issue.
DELLA VOLPE: I don't mean to say it's only about school shootings, it's only about guns. But that's one factor that, I think, kind of opened the door for them to consider other issues.
BOOKER: He says the March For Our Lives movement helped register young voters and kept the gun issue alive throughout 2018. Matt Deitsch is a graduate of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. That's the Parkland, Fla., high school where 17 people were killed in February. He's frustrated no major gun laws have passed on a federal level and that so many shootings have taken place since the one at his alma mater.
MATT DEITSCH: People shouldn't be dying in America because they're going to go to a Madden tournament or go grocery shopping or just be Jewish or just be black in America. But that is happening because we have complacent leadership.
BOOKER: Deitsch, the chief strategist for March For Our Lives, says the gun control fight doesn't end with the election.
DEITSCH: I think a lot of our work is going to be continue to organize. We have to hold this Congress accountable.
BOOKER: But gun control wasn't the top issue in the midterms among voters overall. Exit polls conducted by the AP and ABC found it lagged far behind health care, immigration and the economy. Brakkton Booker, NPR News, Washington.
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