Many Millennials Would Give Up Voting (but Not Texting) to Be Debt-Free

People wait to vote at the the Coliseum in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday Nov. 8, 2016.
People wait to vote at the the Coliseum in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Tuesday Nov. 8, 2016. Sharon Steinmann/The Penny Hoarder

Right now, 42 million former and current college students owe more than $1.3 trillion in student loan debt. That’s nearly triple the 2007 level of $516 billion, according to the Department of Education.

Borrowers have shared hopeless stories of how they feel they can never repay that debt and how misinformation from student loan servicers has cost them greatly. And as the cost of higher education continues to increase, students are borrowing more money and taking longer to repay their debt.

In that grim landscape, it may surprise you to find out what a new survey says student loan borrowers are and are not willing to sacrifice to have their debt forgiven.

Millennials Will Give up Voting, Not Texting, for Debt Forgiveness

Credible, a loan brokerage and refinancing firm, asked 500 people between 18 and 34 years old what they would be willing to give up in exchange for debt forgiveness.

Respondents had five choices. They could choose to give up their right to vote in the 2020 and 2024 presidential elections, never use a ride-sharing app like Uber or Lyft for the rest of their lives, live with their parents again for five years, not leave the country for five years, or give up text messaging or similar messaging apps, like Facebook’s Messenger or WhatsApp, for a year.

Alternatively, borrowers could decide not to give up anything and repay their debt. Only 8.2% chose this option, making it the least popular answer.

The most popular answer: giving up the right to vote.

According to Credible, 49.8% of respondents would be willing to not vote in the next two presidential elections if they could have their student debt forgiven.

As for the other others, 43.6% would give up ride-sharing apps, 42.4% would stay in America for the next five years, 27% would move back in with their parents, and only 13.2% would give up texting.

That sounds bad. It sounds like text messaging and Lyft rides are more important to millennials than voting. And you’re probably going to bite my head off for this one, but as a millennial, a tiny part of me gets it.

Giving up texting could be the equivalent to giving up all communication with the outside world, while the sheer number of voters — more than 200 million — could make some of us wonder how much our single votes really matter. It could convince us that freedom from debt could be worth skipping out on a couple elections, while changing our daily lifestyles might seem like a price too big to pay.

Survey respondents could choose as many options as they wanted. The 500 of them gave 921 answers.

Here’s What This Survey Tells Us About Student Loan Debt

Yes, this survey pool was relatively small, so it’s hard to say this sample represents millennials nationwide.

But voting is a fundamental American right. When nearly half of young people, regardless of the sample size, are more concerned with how they will repay their student debt than voting for our next president, that’s not something we should ignore. This is especially alarming considering the impact an administration can have on student loan borrowers.

For the 8.2% of borrowers who would rather repay their debt than give up anything, we have some ideas to help you out. If you think skipping an election or two is worth it, you may want to take a peek at our tips, too. Getting a handle on your debt could change your mind.

Desiree Stennett (@desi_stennett) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She would rather pay off her student loan debt than give up her right to vote, but she wouldn’t mind deleting her Lyft and Uber accounts for forgiveness.