Why does there seem to be a lack of young people involved in politics? This is something that puzzles many people today.
There is a misunderstanding of whether there actually is a lack of involvement by youth. Many believe that the youth of our country are indifferent and apathetic to what is going on around them. To one point that is true as studies have shown that in the recent decades we have seen significant declines in political participation and growing levels of political mistrust.
Perhaps most disturbing, these declines have been most pronounced among young Americans. According to U.S. Census data, in 1972 nearly half (49.6 percent) of 18-24 year olds voted in the presidential election. By the 1996 election, voter turnout among this group had fallen by nearly one-third, to only 32.4 percent.
However, many are mistaken in the fact that young people are apathetic toward government as many surveys show that most young people are involved in and/or aware of politics. For example, Hamilton College did a survey and found that 88.1 percent of those surveyed said that they were registered to vote, and 76.9 percent said that they were likely to vote in national elections. 61.7 percent said that they followed political news some of the time and 29.4 percent said that they followed it all the time.
The problem with many young Americans is the thought that they can only help by voting. Voting is a large part of the political process and is one of the easiest ways to get involved, but it is assuredly not the only way to contribute.
The 4 Ways to Get Involved
The first way to get involved is to become aware of what is going on in the world around us, whether political or not. If we know what we believe and what those running for office stand for, then we should know how to move forward in the political process. Once we are aware, it helps us better understand the difficulties that our representatives face every day and how we can help our country in other ways.
The second way that young people can be involved in the political process is to help with the campaign of those whom we believe in. Our representatives during the election period are some of the most taxed people in America.
One estimate stated that during the average campaign, an individual running for office will spend at least four hours a day, for an entire year, campaigning for their next election. That would equate to roughly 1,500 hours spent on a single campaign. Knowing this, we should acknowledge that those who we support need all the help they can get.
The third way to get involved is probably the one thing that most people use now— voting. The biggest hindrance to people voting is that many people don’t know how to vote or research issues and are ashamed to ask for help.
Americans between the ages of 18-29 make up 18% of the voting pool. When young people decide to not vote, it greatly affects the voting process by eliminating a great portion of the potential votes. It is said that the candidate who controls the young people’s vote controls the election, but how do you get young people to vote?
Most young people do not want to get involved in politics unless it is fun. Most politics are boring to the average young person, and many do not understand the need to be involved. Because of this search for anything fun, those who are young seem disinterested in the political world. However, young people need to realize that voting is one of the most crucial parts of our government.
The last step to getting involved is talking to your representatives. One of the most overlooked rights of citizens is the right to influence our government. The elected officials are representatives of the people and govern how the people desire.
We as citizens can contact our local, state, or federal officials and let them know how we feel about certain aspects of our government. If there is a bill or law being voted on, we are able and have an obligation to let our representatives know how these may affect us in our daily lives. Contacting representatives is largely overlooked, but when used properly, it can be one of the effectual means of changing the world around us.
Participating in politics is difficult and often scary. Most of us don’t wake up and become political organizers. In fact, even after becoming politically aware, it’s not immediately clear how to actually engage in our complex political system, but the hope is that with this knowledge we can use the tools given to us get involved in the politics of our country.
Too many people think that our nation is run by the politicians and our government, but we are a nation of the people. The only way to change what happens is if we in our country do our best to get involved in any way possible. Some may vote, some may call their politician, and some may even run for office, but we all can do something. What are you willing to do for your country?
Caleb Ball is a Contributor to Freedomists