One of the hottest topics recently is the future presidential election. I dare say that this has been one of the most stimulating and intriguing elections since 2008, when we had a woman (Hillary Clinton) and a black man (Barack Obama) competing for the presidency. However, as flashy and hectic as this current election may be looking, there is one recurring problem that few contenders seem to have the remedy for: young people don’t turn out to vote.
The lack of drive in young people to vote has been a recurring problem for many an election. So, what is it that stops kids from voting? After researching and contemplating my topic, I emerged, not with answers, but with more curiosity about the subject. For me, the question was about whether not voting is merely a decision made by certain people, or whether it reflects a much larger failure of society.
One 19 year old Lesley student who says she won’t be voting in the election, freshman Kaitlin Thibeau, said, “I don’t feel as though I’ve emerged enough into the adult world to start making decisions that affect a country.” She is not alone in that belief. I talked with others who also do not feel as though they should make decisions about a world they do not feel they are a part of. They know that it takes a thorough knowledge to cast a good vote for the presidency, and are merely waiting until they have felt educated and informed enough to do so. There were others I talked to, who also had no interest in getting involved with politics. But for some, it’s not just apathy: there are many young people who feel a loss of faith in politicians and in society; perhaps that is why they feel their vote has no meaning and does not matter.
The fact is that the problems most politicians talk about– like taxes, pensions, or foreign relations– just aren’t relevant to youth. “The fact that young people don’t vote is a failing of politicians, not a sign of stupidity,” says Eleanor Muffitt in The Telegraph. Politicians should be addressing the under 25s directly, speaking to their concerns, and validating their interest in the future of our nation. A writer in The Week observes that young people are not apathetic– they just have their own ways of getting involved, and it may not be voting. “[M]illennials do still care… about helping their communities,” the author notes, and they “view community service as a more sufficient way to make a difference.”
We, as a different generation, have different interests and priorities than those of generations much older. After all, It took until President Obama’s second inauguration speech for a president to address marriage rights for couples who are gay, an issue that our generation is deeply invested in. Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders has attracted young American citizens in colossal waves, thanks to a campaign that focuses on social justice issues– racism, marriage equality, affordable college, and climate change, just to name a few.
In addition to the lack of relatability from politicians, another reason young people aren’t interested in politics is a lack of promotion in our schools. Students I spoke to, whether ready to vote or not, all agreed that they wished their high school had educated them more on voting. Also, almost all of the students I spoke to (even those who had registered to vote) did not know how to vote without being present in their hometown; many did not even know how to acquire an absentee ballot; and some admitted they knew very little about the candidates. A young man named Matthew Irving, who is currently not attending school and is devoting his time to working, has decided to withhold his vote in 2016 because, “I don’t know enough about the candidates to make a vote.”
I found so many young people who aren’t voting because they say they lack a knowledge about politics as a whole. The exclusion of current political issues and lack of civic education in school is a missed opportunity– it misses a chance for a seed of encouragement to be planted in the minds of adolescents on the verge of adulthood. It also widens the gap some non-voters claimed they felt between themselves and the political world. To see politicians and schools working together to reach young adults would be a good idea, and it would, in the sensible words of The Week, “make young people feel empowered.”