We’ve all heard it before—young people don’t care. They’re apathetic and egocentric. Worst of all—they don’t vote. Despite making up a significant percentage of the voter population, young people traditionally turn out at the polls in distinctly low numbers. When voter turnout rates for senior citizens are nearly 20 percent higher than those of voters under 29, why should politicians even bother with this lackluster group of Millennials? Because …
THE FOURTH “TRUTH”:
Until recently, young people were generally ignored when it came to political campaigning. This past decade, however, has seen a dramatic change in both youth voter recruitment and turnout. After more than 30 years of a continuous downward youth-voting trend, the 2004 election changed the tide. The trend has continued upwards ever since, and 2008 marked one of the highest youth turnouts ever.
What changed? Technological change is one answer. As we saw on Monday, Millennials are constantly connected, and politicians are using this to their advantage. Facebook, Twitter and text messages have all become popular campaign strategies.
But something else changed. Politicians began asking us to vote. In the past, candidates have assumed young people won’t be at the polls on Election Day—leading them to disregard the concerns of young people and ignore them in their campaigning. In turn, young people believed politicians didn’t understand their issues, leading them to disregard the importance of voting. The cycle fed off itself, and the result was a tradition of low turnout among young voters.
The 21st Century, however, has seen a massive change in voter recruitment on college campuses, and a new focus of politicians on youth concerns. This change in politicians’ attitudes is reflected in growing youth activism. No longer are we hiding from the polling booths. We’re turning out to vote in surprising numbers, organizing rallies on our college campuses, writing letters to our congressmen, and bringing our friends along with us. We’re one of the most civic-minded generations, and we have volunteer records to prove it.
It’s no surprise that access to education has been one of our top priority issues—voting records show that the more education someone has, the more likely they are to vote. We care, we just want our elected officials to care about us too.
Do you buy into Truth #4?
Are Millennials changing the youth vote for the better?
What would happen if politicians focused more on issues that concern youth?
ABOUT GAYLE CAMPBELL: Gayle is Media Director of OurValues.org.This week, Gayle is writing a series of guest columns for Dr. Wayne Baker, focusing on the disconnect between Millennials and older Americans. She hopes we all can find ways to improve cross-generational communication.