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Why Don’t Young People Vote?

Why Don’t Young People Vote?

I vote because the rest of my age group doesn’t.

It sucks to care about the proverbial “issues” when everyone else I know is too busy texting to be bothered to vote. My chances of getting the TV remote for a Presidential Address, when Jersey Shore is on, are slim to none.

In a way, I understand. In general, politics are pretty boring. I mean, I could spend my Friday night listening to some wordy politician talk about how his city needs more funding to install flat screen TVs in all of its restrooms and how this expenditure would supposedly “Put the Unity back in CommUnity.” But really, I’ve simply got better things to do.
But then, I think about how the political policies being put into effect (or when it comes to clean energy legislation, the policies not being put into effect) are going to affect MY future and MY planet. And this is enough motivation for me. But for the rest of my age group, for the rest of the 18 to 24-year-old Americans out there who can vote but don’t, I have just one question: Why?
It’s because we aren’t targeted. All the time on the news you hear about politicians rallying for the Woman’s vote, or the Minority vote, or the Green vote, and so on and so forth. It’s almost as if politicians are trying to avoid confronting the youth vote. 

Granted, we’re somewhat difficult to wrestle in. We’re obsessed with cool, and it’s pretty hard to get us to care about anything else. Attempts make voting cool and bring out young voters, like “Rock the Vote” for example, failed miserably. We’re disconnected from politics. With over 60% of campaign television advertising being directed at people over 50 and only around 14 percent being directed at 18 to 24-year-olds, it’s no wonder. 

We’re the age group surveyed to be the most hopeful for the future. We’re hopeful for a government that will make the right choices, but we don’t trust them to do so. Understandably so, given a political climate so similar to a soap opera. Given the Eliot Spitzer scandal with the most expensive hookers I’ve ever heard of to John Edwards having an affair with Rielle Hunter, with his cancer-stricken wife at home, America’s youth is more likely to equate politics with a telenovela than with an instrument for change.

All these factors make getting us to vote hard, but rather than give up, try harder. At this identity-seeking age, we’re ready to learn and be given the facts to decide which candidate, or which policy, is right for us.

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Photo credit: nfontes via flickr

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98 comments

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2:51AM PDT on May 21, 2011

I'm a little cynical about voting because of where I grew up, so making people vote is about the same as not let anyone vote.

8:06PM PDT on May 20, 2011

I LOVE that in Australia it is ILLEGAL not to vote!! By imposing a fine on slackers ( I mean fine, upstanding American citizens...) it'll get them to the polls!

8:56PM PDT on May 3, 2011

Saying that American History has to be "made interesting" is like saying that the world has to be "made interesting". History is everything that has ever happened on the earth and if you're not interested in history, you can't be interested in anything -- except possibly only yourself and your personal enjoyment. If that is so, then "party on" and your lack of seriousness will get you absolutely nowhere.

7:33AM PDT on Apr 15, 2011

i will vote when i will see that politicians actually make any better in this world. until that day dawns i wont vote and its my right to do so

3:12AM PDT on Mar 25, 2011

I think there is a difference between caring about politics & voting. I've found people would rather give their apathy answer than admit they are not registered & are afraid of the process. Many people just don't care but more importantly many people do not know how to register & then vote. And it isn't just our youth. This is such a huge problem that there are volunteers who will come to your house to teach you.

Many parents often forget to teach basic life skills assuming that the child has picked them up along the way. Insurance use, banking, grocery, budgeting, voting, unemployment.... It is shocking the number of people who don't know how to function in a basic way in society.

We need education in high school so that it is a right of passage such as the driving license and we need PSA's every year to try & catch everyone else.

1:48AM PDT on Nov 5, 2010

Oh, my... You know, 30 years ago, I could have written this forum post. My mom was part of the group that was protesting Vietnam, and it was hippie galore... She wasn't totally extreme, but you get the idea...

I think what needs to happen is to make American History interesting. Too often, we're talked at. Sure, each one of us is only 1 person, but, it's fun to see what would happen if we all, each as 1 person, would go vote... It would be a huge wake up call. I find it exciting.

2:57AM PDT on Nov 3, 2010

I think young people are unenthused about politics because, deep down, they don't really feel that any of the contemporary parties speak for or to them, or really have the right policies.

In the UK, all of our parties today are essentially right-wing capitalists with little or no real difference between them, still pandering to an erroneous Thatcherite consensus. What is there about that for people to get excited about? Our parties are all more interested in pandering to Rupert Murdoch than the vast majority of ordinary people and their concerns.

In the Blair era our elections hit historically low turnouts, and why wouldn't it when there is nothing to choose between them?

The evidence is overwhelming that people are crying out for something different. That's why Clinton got in, why Obama got in, why Blair got in, and even, tragically Cameron, with the devastating consequences that's going to have for Britain. They all portrayed themselves as the change candidates, when really they just end up giving more of the same.

8:47PM PDT on Nov 1, 2010

Here in Australia it is ilegal not to vote. I am under 18 so cannot vote, it annoys me so much when people complain about having to vote, or worse, would rather be fined than have to vote, when so many people around the world are dying just to get a say.

3:11PM PDT on Oct 31, 2010

In all the years of my youth, I only voted once. After that, it just never seemed to make a difference. The politicians all talk the same talk but no real difference is being made. I see how they waste our tax dollars year after year. I mean, just the other day, I saw a promotional campaigne that had the candidates dancing with beautiful professionals - and I thot, what the heck does this have to do with anything? How come I don't see them hard at work doing something that matters? In the end, it all just seems pointless. For that reason, I have not voted.

10:20PM PDT on Oct 30, 2010

Anyone been reading about the interesting 'back doors' and various controls on voting machines besides what the voters punch in? No wonder the younger generations, already too lazy to work after school, etc. don't bother much about politics. Big money is moving from politics to narcotics and gun running.

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Kathleen J. Kathleen is currently the Activism Coordinator at Care2. more
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