Marvin Nash Jr
MSU School of Journalism
Election season is in full swing and both parties are doing their best to appeal to the masses of potential voters. The last couple elections have brought out voters in record numbers, compared to those of years past. One particular demographic that has been increasing its voter turnout are young adults.
Younger adults have typically not voted in great numbers, consequently not showing a strong representation at the voting polls.
“I personally think that it is ridiculous that young voters are not involved as much as they should be,” said Michigan State University student, Teri Wilcox, 21.
The U.S. Census Data reported that approximately two million more young Americans between the ages of 18-30, voted in the 2008 presidential elections, compared to the 2004 election. The statistics indicate that young voters are becoming more involved with the voting process but why do the numbers for younger voters at the polls, pale in comparison to those of older voters?
Perhaps young people are still at that stage in life where they are transitioning to adulthood and have not fully developed the mindset of how voting affects their lives. Most college age kids do not have the same commitments that the older voting crowd possesses. College students typically don’t have to worry about things like mortgages, property taxes, or the handful of challenges associated with raising a family.
However, younger adults do have to be concerned about the economy, student loans and prospective jobs outlook upon completing schooling.
“Many of them are students, and in elections like the upcoming presidential election, financial aid and tuition have been topics discussed. These are issues highly relevant to the age group and now that they are adults many other issues will become more relevant to them as well,” said Jenny Little, 19, who is a sophomore psychology student attending Central Michigan University.
A lot of the issues that politicians focus on do not necessarily exclude young adults but are not specifically tailored toward them either.
Young voters can also be turned off by the political process due to the amount of information provided by each respective party, whether it be fact or fiction. There can be an inundation of information presented that leaves a person confused or too overwhelmed to do the necessary research.
“I think that some people are embarrassed to ask what they feel are “dumb” questions. Some may not know where to start to get the information that they need. If you are not someone that follows politics you could get confused easily because you have to search for the truth, which is sad,” said Wilcox.
There are organizations dedicated to assisting young voters understand the wide array of various political issues and topics.
Rock the Vote assists young adults throughout the process of registering to vote, in addition to casting their ballots. The organization was created more than twenty-one years ago and presents various political topics in a manner that is friendlier to young potential voters.
“Some may not understand the importance of voting. In school we are taught how the government works but it is not taught to us how we all have a voice and how it is needed in order to make the world a better place for everyone to live,” said Wilcox.
Some candidates believe that social media has played a significant role in the dissemination of information regarding political candidates and their platforms.
President Obama utilized social media prior to being elected that allowed his campaign message to reach a lot of potential voters within the young adult category. President Obama was able to capture the attention of voters through the untapped resource of social media networking sites. Young voters are a huge part of the demographic landscape that spend a good amount of time on social networking websites like Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter.
“Social media definitely has the capacity to reach out to more people and it’s a good way for the candidates to try to spread their message and what it is they are trying to accomplish for the American public,” said Tsasha Bromely, 34, resident of Whitehall, Mich.
“I believe younger voters just aren’t thinking far enough ahead to realize that it effects their future to vote now. They should be involved in the voting process so they can be a part of deciding their future. One person can make a difference and I definitely think social media has helped with the increase.”
Again, there are a number of issues that young voters cannot relate to and that appears to be some of the reason for the disconnect with politicians. How can you convince an 18 year old to be truly interested about topics like Medicare or Social Security? Perhaps politicians and the younger adult voting crowd should spend more time listening to one other.
“Young adults should be involved in the voting process because it is their chance to use their voice. They’ve just come out of a stage where a common complaint is that no one listens to them and this is an opportunity to change that opinion,” said Little.