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The Reasons For The Overall Decline Of Voter Turnout Amongst Young Americans

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Young Americans have the ability to be a political force during elections because they, Americans from 18-29 years old, comprise of 49 million people. It is quite the opposite; although statistics from recent elections and the 2018 midterms show a vast improvement in voter turnout amongst young Americans, it does not compare to the voter turnout of Americans older than 65, and there has been a long history of a lack of participation when it comes to voting. A few of the many reasons for the overall decline of voter turnout amongst young Americans under the age of 30 is due to their stage of the family life cycle and lack of information about logistics and candidates, and ways to boost voter participation is to provide information for the young and to incentivize voting in general.

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When comparing citizenship participation between Americans under the age of 30 and ones older than 65, there is a vast difference between the two age groups. This is seen during the 2014 midterm election and the 2018 midterm election. During the 2014 midterm election, Americans from the age of 18-29 voted at 19.9 percentage points, while Americans over the age of 65 years old voted at 59.4 percentage points, showing a difference in 39.5 percentage points. In the next midterm election of 2018, young Americans from the age of 18-29 jumped 15.7 percentage points to a 35.6 percentage point turnout, while older Americans over the age of 65 years old only jumped 6.7 percentage points at a 66.1 percentage point turnout. During this midterm election of 2018, the difference between the two age groups is 30.5 percentage points decreasing by 9 percentage points from the 2014 midterm election. The 2018 midterm election was record breaking for young Americans, but there was still 30.5 percentage points between the two age groups and a long history of low voter turnout numbers for young Americans. When comparing these two age groups, it is imperative to ask why this is the case.

Although there are many reasons for low voter turnout between 18-29 year old Americans, a few include the stage of their family life cycle and lack of information regarding elections. The family life cycle is a method of separating family members at different stages of their lives: being young and single, newlyweds, full nesters, and empty nesters. While there are outliers, the majority young Americans are young and single. They usually do not have children, do not own property, and are attending high school or college, where they are learning how to live by themselves for the first time. Because of this, they do not feel that they have much at stake regarding society as a whole. According to “The Economist”, because these young Americans do not own homes or have children, they feel disconnected with policy changes regarding schools, parks, libraries, and hospitals. This is not true because policies that may not seem to affect you could because they cause changes in the future and some policies go on for years. The rate at which people are settling down is older than what it used to be; in the past, people used to be married, have children, and own a home by the age of 21, while now on average, people settle down at the age of 26 while wanting to juggle a career at the same time. Sadly, it is hard to vote or care about politics when it does not seem to affect you in your personal life. Also when in high school and college, individuals are still forming their political opinion. Another reason for low voter turnout of young Americans is their lack of knowledge of basic information and the candidates. When surveys that targeted young people were conducted, it found significant amount of young Americans feel like they lack knowledge about government operations and do not feel like “they know enough to vote”. They do not know logistics, such as where to register to vote, when deadlines occur, and where the closest place to vote is and information about policies, what people stand for, or how they could influence representatives. Young Americans feel intimidation when it comes to politics. It is important to break down these barriers of intimidation to increase voter turnout.

Ways to boost interest and participation are to provide unknown information to intimidated young adults and to incentivize voting. Providing basic information to this age group would make a world of difference for voter turnouts. Because of intimidation, young Americans do not feel comfortable or smart enough to vote. Providing information of when, where and how to register to vote will help prepare people, especially with the help of social media and technology that is so prominent in today’s society. There are a number of programs that universities have created to encourage college students to register and vote. An example of this was in Livingstone, a college in North Carolina, that carried out an event with prizes, free food, music, candidate presentations, and more. This not only created an exciting environment for people to have fun and meet like minded individuals, but it also resulted in the registration of 400 students out of a 1,000 students college. This event resulted in 40% of the student population registering to vote and because of it, it instilled patriotism and excitement towards voting and citizenship activities. Creating a positive environment about the voting process and information reduces intimidation and allows young people to step into the world of politics and learn to enjoy it. It brings politics to life in a new way, unlike the debates on television. Events and programs like this could happen at any school through a small booth or a big event. It would get young people to learn how voting works in a fun way, and in this way, it would boost voter participation. It also will boost voter turnout because it gets people to the booth one time, and because voting is a habit, an individual is more likely to vote again if they did in the past. Another way to increase voter turnout is by incentivizing voting; in a perfect world, voting for a new leader or policies is motivation enough, but statistics prove otherwise. Because America is a capitalist society, voting booths should add commercial incentives to get young people or anyone to the voting booths. This could be done through sponsorships; different companies would sponsor different polling areas offering free food, like a patriotic hot dog, goodies, or discount cards to their stores and products. It would make the voting process more enjoyable and lines seem bearable, and it would encourage people to go to their local polling area if a free meal was provided. Another way to incentivize voting would to create a local competition, displaying art on the voting booths. Right now what covers voting booths are plain white cardboard with a general red, white, and blue design, but if local artists displayed their painting or drawing, it would appeal to younger people. The competition would be set up where artists turn in their art and allow the public to decide which are their favorites. This could be done on a website, endorsed and made bigger by social media. There would be parameters for the artists to follow, such as color, size, and different states or counties can add different designs based on the area. It would be more interactive and cause people to feel proud of their area or work. It would also invoke the feeling that they already contributed and helped themselves. It would make the regular gyms, churches, and community centers look less boring and more like an art gallery because of its visual appeal. In turn, it makes it more exciting and pleasant to wait. It allows creativity, patriotism, and gets people involved. These creative ways would boost interest and participation because young people love experiences.

In conclusion, the reason for the overall decline of voter turnout among young Americans is due to the stage of their life and the feeling of intimidation, which can be changed through events and programs that provide basic information and make them excited to vote, which allows them to be the potential political driving force of elections, surpassing those older than 65. There is a lot going on within the political climate that young people are not proud of: unequal treatment due to race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and disability, disbelief of climate change, the reality of the deteriorating environment, and more. As a group, a way to change this is through voting and making change to a world that we will be living in the future. It is our job to step up and vote for what we think is right. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” (Margaret Mead).

14 May 2021

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