Young People Aren’t Motivated to Vote


Written by Jessica Cheung

In 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama ran a grassroots campaign based on the mantra of hope and change, generating a wave of support from his youth voters and those who plan to vote for him when they become eligible.

Unfortunately, in the 2012 election, the youth who are now eligible to vote for the first time, are less enthusiastic about making a difference with their vote.

“Obama’s 2008 platform emphasized hope and change in an idealized way, and that was what attracted the attention of youth voters who wanted a change after eight years of Bush as president,” Emily Moody, 19, of Wesleyan University, said. “But now that Obama has been in office for four years and people actually see what progress he has and hasn’t made, the message of hope and change is a bit tarnished and voting may not seem as exciting to youth voters.”

“This isn’t going to be like the milestone election it was in 2008,” noted Sean Lee, 19, of McGill University.

According to a report released by the Center for the American Electorate, youth voter turnout is predicted to drop significantly in the 2012 U.S. presidential election, due partly to the decline in political interest among young people. Voter turnout for the 2008 election was the highest since 1960, according to Fair Vote.

“Last election, Obama really tapped into the youth, but now that he’s an incumbent, I’m seeing less excitement and enthusiasm from him,” Edmond Chan, 19, a freshman at the University of California at Santa Barbara, said. “[Since I’m a democrat,] I probably won’t vote in the presidential election because I’m 100 percent sure California will go blue.”

A freshman at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Irina Kirnos, 19, shares the same sentiment. “I pretty much know California will vote for Obama,” she said. “I’m also not voting because I haven’t had the time to keep up with the details of the election.”

“This is my first opportunity to vote, but I plan not to vote in November,” Lee said. “I support Obama, and to quote my AP history teacher: the incumbent always has the advantage. Truthfully, I have the one-vote- isn’t-going-to-make-a-difference attitude.”

“Young people assume their views will be reflected in the results of the elections,” Nicola Householder, 19, and a student at Barnard College in New York City, said. “When you’re just hanging out with a group
of friends who share similar views, there’s a misconception [that everyone shares your beliefs] and people assume that their votes will be accounted for.”

Organizations such as Rock the Vote aim to encourage youth to head for the polls through pubic service announcements by celebrity spokesmen.

But some youth voters say it it’s not the celebrities that drive young voters, but the issues on the line.

“Employment and job creation is my biggest concern, and is one becoming more pertinent for students coming out of college,” Householder said.

A national poll of America’s 18- to 29- year olds by Harvard University’s Institute of Politics released in April cited that 58 percent of them said “jobs and the economy” are the top issues that concern them.

With the recent wave of Occupy movements on college campuses and rising student debt, for them the economy is a hot-button issue.

“I feel Obama has only thrust our economy farther into recession and I do not foresee future improvements with him in office,” Jessie Chase, 19, of Fordham University, said, adding: “Even though in the last election I was pro-McCain, I still remained hopeful Obama would live up to his promises.”

Yet, despite the slow economic progress, with an 18 percent unemployment rate among young adults, Democrat hopefuls recognize that nothing can stop unemployment dead on its track.

“Even though Obama’s track record so far in his presidency hasn’t been flawless, I appreciate his steps forward,” Moody said. “He had a lot of tough situations—the struggling economy included—to deal with.”

Recently, Obama’s birth control policy, which mandated insurance plans to cover costs of contraceptives, as well as his endorsement of same-sex marriage, resonated with socially liberal youths.

“I am voting Obama for economic and social reasons such as gay rights and abortion laws,” Householder said.

“Obama’s social and economic views line up better with mine than those of any other candidate,” Leo Sussman, 18, a student at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis., said. “I support his tax policies over Mitt Romney’s, as well as his views on marriage equality.”

But for students who aren’t motivated by politics or the economy to vote in November, some say they may still go to the polling station if there is some incentive.

“Like free donuts,” Chan joked.

This post was originally published by New America Media.


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Photo from Rob Boudon via flickr


Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra4 years ago

Thank you New American Media, for Sharing this!

Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

Newt Gingrich said Mitt Romney was a liar. Remember?

Christopher M.
Christopher M.5 years ago

I viote because my parents always voted. Maybe the parents should set the example.

Now people waited for a long time to vote this time around, especially in Florida, but also in Virginia. I simply got to the polling place at 4:40 AM (over an hour early). I was sick, hungry, and freezing, and in fact the doctor at work sent me to Georgetown University Hospital later in the day.

People do this on Black Friday, right? Get up early to stand in line.

Robert K.
Robert K5 years ago

"Whats the difference between one politician and another?"

Nothing? Obama is standing up for you, Romney is only representing the obscenely rich.

In 2 debates, Romney 58 documented outright lies, Obama none.

In 1 debate, Ryan 24 documented outright lies, Biden 1 spin.

The difference between the parties is like the difference between a cold and death.

Viji Gopal
Biji Gopal5 years ago

Choose the Right Party so as to be led by a Righteous President
Whenever A candidate stands bravely to challenge to lead a nation ,that candidate is only representing the values, promises ,and profound commitments they are able to deliver
This Candidate actually represents the whole party and speaks and does everything on behalf of his party because his Party chose him to be their representative .Therefore Americans voting for Barack Obama are not voting him per se but the entire Democrat Party .
To pick on issues like he is black or African or white is totally out t of context ,no party can be all black or all white or all purple for crying out loud . To find personal faults or make personal attacks on a chosen representative is tantamount to say that all the members of the party he represents are fools ' as he is their elected leader
Remember it's the Party that governs the country it's not the elected President .Whatever he says ,does or plans to execute is a unanimous decision and must be approved by the senate or congress
Lets look at Ten Past Presidents and the ruling party they represented that governed The United States Of America ,it spans 25 years of historical leadership by both Democrats and Republicans
In the 25 yrs all Democrat leaders 1] John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1961-1963 [Assassinated ]
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civili

Mary B.
Mary B5 years ago

What a bunch of lame excuses for not voteing. And it's the same old brainwashed statements that are made every four years,'no difference in the parties, corrupt government, my vote won't count anyway...bleet bleet bleet. Come on kids, this is your chance to begin shapeing the world you will be living in, don't blow it by being sock puppets for everybody elses thoughts. And stop expecting idealism to save the day. Our lives are made up of ordinary moments. 'Jobs and The Economy" are just meanless words, unless they are tied to spending your time doing something that is really needed, and you get paid a liveing wage for it. Who ever you vote for, hold them to making everybodys lives better and that means a strong safety net because there simply are not going to be enough jobs to go around, and small business can't always afford to pay liveing wages. There must be a back up system that does not rely on tax dollors. Also things almost never turn out as hoped the first time, but that just means it needs tweaking, not thrown out. Get real! We parents did not invest 18 years of our lives provideing for you so you could just brush off your first responsibility as a citizen of this country. You will vote, useing your own intelligence to make up your mind, or you'll be damn sorry you didn't. Not because you'll be punished, but because you'll realize how stupid and arrogant your assumptions were. Even so called 'independent' ones. They are just as programed as the others.

Doug Gledhill
Doug G5 years ago

Can't say I blame them. Both of these so called men, leave much to be desired. With all the problems, Americans still cling to this god awful two party system that has been putting an axe in their backs for decades. Speaks volumes about them!

Richard B.
Richard B5 years ago

What's the point in voting? If things suck now, they'll get a lot worse in November if Repubs get president.

Richard B.
Richard B5 years ago

Aren't young people outraged about the student loan situation?

Dave Beanland
Dave Beanland5 years ago

Whats the difference between one politician and another?
They're all there to fleece the shirts off our backs and line their own pockets.
So tell, me what's the point in voting?