According to Scott Keeler at the Pew Research Center the People & the Press, the percentage of youth voters (ages 18-29) in the national election was approximately 18 percent of the total electorate in 2008. In the 2012 election, it is reported that the youth turnout has increase by one percentage. Although the Democratic Party has received the largest amount voters among this age group, many are overlooking the significance of this 1 percent increase.
The 1 percent increase indicates the following possibilities:
• Those who were between the ages of 14-17 in 2008 were not engaged or interested in either candidate.
• Those who were between the ages of 14-17 in 2008 were not satisfied with results of President Obama’s first term.
• President Obama lost supporters between the ages of 19-29 based on his first term
• Voters from ages 26-29 aged out of the youth group
• Former supporters of both parties did not vote
• Former supporters voted third party
These possibilities largely depend on the top election issues. According CNN, Fox News, and others, the top five election issues were federal spending, the economy, government regulations, national security, and illegal immigration. Of course, the economy and federal spending were the top issues. Young people, especially those who are graduating from college, are focused on federal spending and the economy; however, many have more pressing concerns with education. Education has become a less popular topic than it was in the 2008 election. Even the results of a Gallup poll in of 2008 exclude education as a major issue. So it appears that there is a growing trend of education becoming less relevant.
It is possible that the 1 percent increase in youth voting is directly connected the country’s disinterest in the state of education. In addition, young people have continued to express their discontent with the current and previous administration’s policies pertaining to education. This can be translated into the wave of adults and youth who are dissatisfied with the prospects of a greater future for the next generation. According to a Gallop poll in May 2012, 58 percent of adults (including 18-29 age group of interest) are dissatisfied with the opportunity for the next generation of Americans to live better than their parents. This poll was centered on the belief of getting ahead if someone worked hard. For young people in the 21st century, this starts with working hard in high school and college.
Assuming that the Gallop poll is accurate and fair, is it unreasonable see that young people may believe they have no stake in who wins the election if education (in relation to employment) will remain the same?
The rhetoric of jobs and innovation is used often to gather voters behind candidates. History teaches that innovation typically originates with young people. For this reason, companies poll youth for ideas constantly. In addition, young people are the founders of some of the greatest companies that exist now (i.e. Microsoft). Read Competing in the Global Economy. Usually the young people who start great companies are in the pursuit of higher education.
As these young people grow older, the need to keep them civically engaged grows greater. In order to keep them engaged, education and jobs have to be discussed together as a major political issue. Only then can another generation be prevented from feeling disenfranchised.
by Bryant Muldrew