Why is Voter Turnout Plummeting Amongst America’s Youth?
By Moriah Gallagher
In the year 1776, the phrase “no taxation without representation” was a principle that young people were willing to risk their lives for to make a reality. Fast forward two hundred and thirty nine years and we have a voter turnout among the youth that puts America to shame. In the 2014 election only 19.9% of people ages 18-29 voted, setting a new record. So why is the youth not voting? I spoke to people around St. Francis College’s campus to get some answers.
Out of the individuals I spoke with 46% of them said that they vote in elections and understood the importance of this institution in our society. Unfortunately, the majority of people i spoke to did not vote. There were several recurring themes as to why they were not participating. Some of these themes were not only held by those who didn't vote but also amongst those who do.
Among the non-voters were the “uniformed” non-voters. Their primary reason for not participating in elections was because they believed they were uniformed on the politicians running. “I do not pay attention to politics and I don’t want to vote based on what people around me think” said Karen. This particular group of people would rather refrain from voting than to make an uniformed decision.
Another group was the “I don’t have time to vote” non-voters. One individual who wished to remain anonymous stayed true to their claim of being a busy person by answering extremely briefly on all the questions with statements such as “No. Too busy!” and “No. Not interested!” There was also the “lethargic non-voter,” who was just too plain lazy to vote. Though one can’t admire their initiative, you can’t help but admire their honesty.
Despite all the reason for not voting, the most alarming one was the “defeatist non-voter.” This is an underlying theme throughout all the individuals who responded. “Although it’s important to vote, I still feel like my vote doesn’t matter…The world will still be a messed up place, with or without my vote” said Ketsia.
Corruption is a main deterrent that keeps these young people from voting. They see corruption as an unopposable force. “At this point, politics without corruption is like having a body subsist without oxygen; it doesn't exist” one person said. “There is obviously corruption in the system…however, we cannot fix it” said Natasha. They see it as something that can be minimized but not as something which can be stopped. Not only did non-voters cite this as a discouraging factor against politics but so did voters.
How can we change such bleak outlooks on voting?
For starters it would benefit many people, especially college students to have election days off. Many people are juggling school, work, and family and have no time to vote when election day comes around. If that day was declared a national holiday not only would it clear up everyones busy schedule, but it would also serve as a useful reminder for people that election day is coming. According to The Center For Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, This is the majority of the reasons why college students do not vote.
The United States could also begin to fine people who refuse to vote just as countries such as Australia do, forcing all citizens to be involved in their government. There should also be more non-partisan resources readily available to voters so they can make educated decisions on who to vote for.
Part of the responsibility lies with the politicians. “Most politicians care more about their positions rather than the people they represent” was the response of one individual when asked if they had faith in the people who currently hold office. It is up to the politicians to convince the youth of their sincerity and their desire to serve the country and not their desire to win elections.
In recent events the elections have been more like a circus than educated debates. “Its becoming a joke to some people” said Danielle. How can we convince young people of the importance of elections when the main debates are held by big media corporations who are more concerned with ratings than they are with fairness and accuracy? What the youth has seen of American politics is it’s slow evolution into an episode of Keeping Up With The Kardashians (afterall, Kanye is running in 2020). Once these elections are taken serious by those who run and cover them, then we will see the youth reacting in the same way.
The non-voters despite their keeping out of politics is one of the most influential groups in this country. Their decision to remove themselves from politics has just as much influence as it would if they participated. This decision affects elections most often for the worse.
The youth needs to realize that they do in fact have the power to change what happens in our government and that all is not hopeless. Non-voters are extremely influential because many of their ideas are part of the national psyche. The fact of the matter is that this group, if not complacent, could have a large influence due to the sheer number of people who think and feel as they do. The thing that allows corruption, that allows lies and dirty politics is a lack of retaliation against it. If this group was provoked, it would awaken a sleeping giant and things would change. It is only up to these individuals to discover it.