As the 2020 election cycle concludes, we can see that a record number of young people cast their ballots, at odds with previous statistics on young voter turnout. But, why is turnout typically so low for young people? What should politicians do to make sure younger generations are engaged enough in the political process? In this piece, MEDIAGIRLS Youth Advisory Board (YAB) Lead, Angela Ruan, reflects on these questions.
The 2020 race for the White House is over and its results will impact people around the world. But, despite this fact, young people often do not vote in presidential elections. Since the 1964 presidential election, the number of young voters has dropped consistently (U.S. Census). This is an issue that needs to be fixed: we need the younger generations to vote. There are 72 million Millennials (Pew Research Center) in the United States and 67 million Gen Zers (Statista) – an abundance of people who can vote, if they are over 18 years old.
Much of the reason for younger people not voting is due to political illiteracy. If young people do not have knowledge about the candidates and their policies, they will be less likely to vote. Young people might also have the notion that their voices do not matter. They feel as though politicians consistently ignore them and issues they care about. Climate change is one of many examples where young voters feel that they have been silenced.
On the other hand, politicians tend to ignore the younger generations because they do not make up a significant portion of people who consistently vote; therefore, politicians are not persuaded to care about their urgent problems. Politicians do not care how many people are voting, but about how many people are voting for them. States such as North Carolina, New Hampshire, and Virginia all have high turnout rates with young voters (NPR), and other states need to follow (Odyssey). If all (or even more) eligible young people voted, they could sway election results.
The question now is, “how can we get young people engaged in the voting process?” One method of reaching out is utilizing social media. With platforms like Instagram and Twitter dominating the internet, it is simple to spread information about election updates to young people and their friends and family. Outreach can be effective in different contexts by sharing positions on issues that young people care about, encouraging voting throughout the U.S., and arguing how they are a better candidate than their opponent. As a young person, I would like to see politicians come to institutions (i.e. school, local city halls, college campus, etc.) to emphasize the power that youths embody, whether it is in-person or through a video call.
If politicians provide opportunities for young people to use their voices, young people will feel their votes are being truly considered and valued.
Angela Ruan is currently a senior at the Woodward School for Girls. She is part of the MEDIAGIRLS Youth Advisory Board (YAB) and serves the group’s Lead. In her spare time, Angela likes to read, play volleyball, and listen to music.