Lack of youth vote is disappointing

September 6, 2011

By Kim Bussing

Hall Monitor Kim Bussing Issaquah High School

It should come as no surprise that general voter participation in the United States is significantly lower than it was 40 years ago. Our nation, which, ironically, has tried to promote democracy and fair voting standards in foreign areas, has some of the lowest voter participation in developed countries.

However, recent statistics have revealed that perhaps it is not the lack of concern on the part of the overall population, but it is the youth — encompassing anyone under age 25 — who have been avoiding polls and recycling mail-in ballots.

In fact, 86 percent of anyone older than 65 has expressed interest in following current political issues; that number decreases to about 36 percent with the younger generation. What has prompted the youth’s poor regard towards partisan concerns? Dismay over the current state of politics, concern that their vote carries no weight or simply general apathy? Regardless of the reason, lack of information about presidential contenders and the general political atmosphere is rampant amongst students beginning to exercise their electing power for the first time.

With the 2012 elections looming ever closer and candidates becoming the celebrities of political cartoons and Time magazine covers, very few new voters can even identify pictures of top contenders for office. The most recognized face? Sarah Palin, made infamous by her short-lived reality TV show, “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” and Tina Fey’s impression of her on “Saturday Night Live.”

Studies have shown that with easy access to the Internet and TV shows that focus on comedy rather than national issues, such as “SNL,” it is easy for the generation that was nursed on technology to ignore upcoming political events and debates completely. Season premieres and football games take precedence over presidential speeches, and candidates are known for their caricature portrayal by the media rather than for their platform.

The aforementioned may act as the catalysts for a general disregard for modern politics, but also foreshadow the United States’ priorities. After all, while Palin’s reality TV show garnered record-high ratings, President Obama’s relatively recent speech on withdrawing troops from Afghanistan broke records for the lowest number of viewers since he took office.

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