Young voters showing apathy
Young voters showing apathy
During the 60's, young adults made their presence felt not just by their use of marijuana or weird clothes and hairstyles, but more so because they were intent to make a difference. They protested rallied and marched to any cause they deemed worthy. Furthermore, young adults also realized the importance of voting by taking their issues right to the polls. Unfortunately, times have changed and today's young adults no longer feel the need to make a difference. Today's Generation X has developed a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to voting. The main reasons for apathy among young voters are today's young adults lack interest, knowledge and trust in American politics.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, voters between the ages of 18 and 24 have had the worst voter turnout rate of any age group in every congressional and presidential election since 1980. For example, of the 10 million eligible voters between the ages of 21 to 24, only 37.2 percent were registered to vote in the 1994 congressional elections and only 16.5 percent voted. Although they fared a little better in the presidential elections with 38.5 percent voting in the 1996 Clinton-Dole showdown, it is still worrying that not even half the eligible voters in that age group exercised their right to vote. The 60s, on the other hand, saw more than half of 11 million young voters, taking to the polls. We clearly have a lost of interest in politics among America's young adults. Most young adults today would rather watch MTV's "The Real World" than the evening news. For many young adults, especially those in school, too many other events are more important than voting. The top priority of most students is to graduate; everything else is on the back burner. Therefore, many students do not take the time necessary to follow politics and be well informed of the issues at hand. Furthermore, the issues usually are targeted at older voters, such as, health, taxes, and family issues. This is due to the fact that older citizens have long shown more of an interest in politics and are more passionate when it comes to voting. Thus, many young adults choose not to vote because they believe that an ignorant vote is worse than no vote at all.
Democracy is something everyone learns as early as kindergarten. When the teacher asks if it will be kickball or dodgeball at recess, the majority usually wins. It's an easy lesson for a 5-year-old to learn. Raise your hand for what you want. However, one of the most simple and necessary elements of a democracy is the reliance on active participation in the government by a majority of the population. If the participants are not influenced to be active, the system fails. By educating students and the public about the value of the system, the education system could help combat apathy. The tradition that college graduates were looked upon with more respect than the less educated has ended. How can the so-called higher educated members of society gain any respect when most graduates are unable or unwilling to participate in a ritual of our nation? The problem is that traditional education, that included more intensive study of government, has been replaced by a system that increasingly focuses on technology and skills training but may be failing in educating good citizens. A higher education should be more than a job. It should be a continuing desire to improve and guarantee the quality of life for generations to come.
With a lack of knowledge in politics and democracy comes the myth that one vote does not make a difference. Many young adults have no faith in the system, therefore do not vote due to the feeling of disappointment that their vote does not matter. How often do you hear young adults say, "I did not vote because I don't feel as if my vote would count." Others are disenchanted with the political system because voting in the past never produced results. However, young people today need to realize that one voice does make a difference. In addition, if more young adults took an interest, politicians would be forced to listen. For example, financial aid is one of many issues at hand in recent political campaigns. If politicians continue to cut student aid, some young people may not have a chance for a college education. Thus, young adults must have faith in the system and increase the number of young voters. Otherwise, politicians will continue to cater only to the needs of the older generation because that is who is voting them into office.
Some recent direct appeals have been made to increase the number of young voters through campus visits and appearances on MTV by candidates. In addition, the Internet, campus registration drives, and programs such as Motor Voter, Youth Vote '96, Net Vote '96, and MTV's Rock the Vote have been successful in motivating young adults to vote. Despite all that has been said and done, many young adults are still apathetic when it comes to voting due to a lack in interest, knowledge and trust in American politics. For most young adults, to vote or not to vote is a question that they must begin to ask themselves.