According to a recent poll by the Harvard University Institute of Politics (HUIP) the 18 to 29-year-old demographic is even less motivated to vote in the midterm elections for Congress in 2014 than they were in 2010. In fact, the numbers are truly dismal with only one-in-four of those under the age of 30 that were polled saying they fully intended to vote. This lack of interest in political outcomes by America’s younger generations is remarkable and disturbing in that it reflects the national trend of “whatever” that seems to be the preferred attitude of today’s less than civic-minded youth. However, the poll also revealed that the young Republicans polled had more of a commitment to influencing the midterms than did their Democrat counterparts. This commitment could potentially affect the outcome of the elections if the young Republicans campaign to motivate their peers and “get out the vote.”
The HUIP poll sampled 3,058 young registered voters. Some 44 percent of those polled that voted for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said they fully intended to vote in the midterm elections in 2014. On the flip side, out of the young Democrats polled that voted for President Obama in 2012, only 35 percent expressed any interest in voting in the midterms. These results, although from a relatively small sample, seem to indicate that Republican youth has more interest and commitment to civic issues and understand that the outcome of the midterm elections will have a direct effect on their futures.
Given the jobless rate in the nation, it would seem that young Democrats and Republicans alike would be interested in the legislative actions of Congress and the outcome of the midterms. Considering a recently released report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that indicates a full 20 percent of American families do not contain an employed person, American youth should be concerned with Congress’s ability to create jobs, not just the endless extension of unemployment benefits.
It seems however, that young, registered voters are disillusioned with the entire political process. In fact, their enthusiasm has waned from 31 percent as indicated by a 2012 poll, to only 23 percent in the current poll who are planning to vote in the midterms. While, as President Obama might put it, the midterms are not exactly “sexy” they are critical in that Congressional power in the House and Senate has a direct effect on policy. At least for the most part it does although the use of the veto pen and executive fiat have given this administration remarkable “flexibility” when it comes to enforcing the rule of law not to mention interesting interpretations of the Constitution.
Perhaps the sense of disempowerment that young voters feel is what has fostered their attitude of “whatever.” Perhaps they are not to blame for their disillusionment in a political environment in which legislators seem to elevate the importance of party politics over the vitality of the nation. Another aspect of this that the HUIP poll measured was the level of trust these young voters had in government. According to the poll, they have lost trust in “public institutions” and that includes Congress, the military and President Obama and his administration. In fact, according to the HUIP poll, that trust is at a five-year low with young voters believing that the government will only “do the right thing” 31 percent of the time.
Those in the 18 to 29-year-old demographic are poised to attend college, find jobs, start families, buy their first homes and otherwise graduate into the world of adult responsibilities. Included in these life events should be the civic desire to exercise their voting privileges because legislation will affect almost every area of their lives from job creation to healthcare and mortgage financing.
It is disconcerting that so many in the nation have become disillusioned to the point that they no longer feel their vote can make a difference. At least a certain percentage of young Republicans have realized the folly of this perspective. If they remain motivated to vote in the midterms, there is a clear possibility their votes will swing the pendulum away from Democrats and in the favor of Republicans. This could give Republicans a majority in both the House and Senate, which would be a great political loss to Democrats of the supposedly older and wiser generation.
Opinion By Alana Marie Burke
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