Young voters are notoriously hard to get to the polls, but their voice is an increasingly important one on both sides of the aisle. A major factor in that importance is that a number of key issues in this year’s election are directly related to the concerns of students and young professionals, making it essential that young people learn about political issues and take to the polls to vote in November’s election. Still not convinced? Here are some of the biggest reasons that young voters are even more important in this year’s election than ever before.
Young voters make up almost 20% of the voting population, making them a powerful political force.
A fifth of Americans eligible to vote are young people, so the youth vote has the potential to be extremely influential. Unfortunately, not all that can vote will, meaning that fewer young people get to directly influence issues that might affect their lives for years to come, including college tuition reform and federal job programs. In 2004, less than half (49%) of those between 18 and 29 came out to vote, a rate that is steadily rising but still far from where it could be.
Yet older Americans are most likely to vote.
While young people make up a large portion of voters, they’re much less likely than those who are older to get out and vote. In the 2004 elections, 70% of those between 45 and 59 voted, 73% of those between 60 and 74, and 69% of those 75 and older. It’s not hard to guess that the needs, desires, and beliefs of those generations might be pretty different than young people’s, and the significantly higher numbers of older Americans who come out to vote may be skewing presidential choices and legislation away from the needs of young voters. If young voters want candidates to cater to their needs, they need to get out and vote.
Every vote counts.
Many young people cite feeling as though their vote doesn’t count, among millions of others, as their reason for not participating in elections. However much it may feel like this, it simply isn’t the case. Obama’s popularity with youth voters may have been one of the key factors that helped him to win the 2008 election, giving him a large margin over competitors in a number of key states. In recent years, many elections have come down to a few hundred votes (Minnesota senator Al Franken won by just 312 votes) and the election debacle in 2000 is not to be forgotten anytime soon. You vote does matter, maybe more than you realize.
Young people are struggling in the wake of the economic downturn
College debt and a lack of jobs are crippling the financial future of many young voters, and it’s a situation that won’t be changed by simply sitting idly by while others make major political decisions. Young voters who want to make a change need to show their support for candidates that will represent their needs. No one else is going to vote with the interests of young people in mind except, you guessed it: young people.
Young voters are an incredibly diverse group.
There is no other age group in America that is as diverse as that of young voters, making the demographic perhaps one of the best voices for political candidates who will cater to the needs of more than just one group. Currently, 61% of young people are white, 17% are Hispanic, 15% are African-American, 4% are Asian, and the remaining 3% are of mixed or Native American descent. With diversity only growing in the U.S., it makes sense for this highly diversified group to actively participate in decisions that will affect us all.
Young people need to connect with politics early on.
Participating in politics is a hard-won right in our nation, but it’s one that Americans of all ages don’t freely exercise as often as they should. Building a relationship with the political process early on is key to making it a lifelong habit. If you’ve always voted in elections, you’ll be much less likely to skip a vote in the future. This sort of habit-forming participation is key if we’re to create laws and elect leaders who represent the needs of both young and old alike in our country.
It’s easier than ever to be an educated voter.
In this day and age, there is no excuse not to vote because you don’t know enough about the candidates. Social media sites, blogs, YouTube, and even candidates’ own websites provide ample material for learning about the positions politicians hold on just about everything under the sun. This civic education isn’t just beneficial in the months leading up the election, but can also motivate young voters to stay involved and to know more about the political processes that affect their lives every day, even if they’re not aware of it.
The youth vote may sway the election.
As we’ve mentioned before, your vote does matter, and if enough young people come out and vote, it could actually sway the election. College voters have swayed elections before (just ask Joe Courtney) and if you’ve ever doubted the power of the college vote, just look up information on how many times local governments have tried to make it hard or downright impossible for college students to vote. This year, candidates are fighting hard for the youth vote. Why? Because it could help make the difference between victory and loss.
You may not care now, but you might in four years.
Choosing a president or even a senator isn’t something that just affects your life right now. You might not think college debt is a big deal while you’re still in school, but will you feel differently when you’re struggling to pay it back? Adult life brings many new challenges, like marriage, buying a house, paying for your own health insurance, and for some, even starting a business, all of which might just change your perspective on political issues. While you can’t predict who or where you’ll be in four years, you can make political decisions that may make your life easier and even better in the coming months and years. Speak up, make a choice, and take part in the election to protect yourself today and in your first few years in the real world.
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