In the 2008 presidential election, voter turnout for the youth population aged 18-29 increased by about 2 million voters, and was around 2 percentage points higher than in 2004. This was one of the highest rates of youth turnout ever recorded in a presidential race, and marked a significant effort to encourage youth participation with programs such as Rock the Vote. However, of the 78% of registered voters who planned on voting in 2012, only 51% actually did. Of the youth voters registered for this year’s election, only 58% plan on participating. While young voter turnout in the last election was impressive, it wasn’t lasting, and shows that a decline in the youth vote is still as steady as ever.
For college students who aren’t students of politics, interest in the subject seems to be waning. We no longer live in a time when the State of the Union address attracts the most viewers on TV, or where political information is easy to access, easy to digest, or commonly accepted. Where political discussion and compromise are valued instead of discouraged.
Even with active campus political groups like College Democrats and College Republicans, as well as a large number of college-age students who have an interest in being politically conscious, student activism is hardly what it was during the ‘60s. At that time in our nation’s story of political unrest, young voters had an interest in the civil rights movement and anti-war/draft protests. The closest comparison to this era of student-led protests has been the Occupy movement – but even this was far from the student participation in Vietnam protests and Civil Rights gatherings.
In our new political era where ideological warfare is common even among the political leaders of our country, I would argue that political conversations have become more taxing, if not entirely unwelcome. In the event that politics has become taboo, are we, the individual, left in a state of political solitude?
With twitter updating every second, internet blogs every few minutes, and more recognized news sources every hour, our youth electorate is caught under an avalanche of news and often can’t find their way to the top. Under these circumstances, to remain up to date with the influx of relevant information is in itself time consuming and isolating. When social media has taken over as the most frequent and efficient means of conversation, face-to-face discussion seems to fall to the wayside.
But what does this mean for college age voters? Sheltered as we sometimes are in the comfort of our university it seems even more likely that we would turn our backs on a political society defined by disagreement, misinformation, and personal bias. To turn our backs on something that could take years to understand when we have mere minutes.
This blog is being written for every student with the heart of an activist, but no time to be one. It is being written to simplify the politics of this year’s coming election, and provide information relevant to college-age students, without the hassle of absorbing every political news story of the day. This blog is an experiment in escaping the solitude of political involvement, and allowing politics to be a priority, not a disturbance.
My goal is to inspire more of our uninterested and indifferent generation to be passionate about political discussion, and feel empowered to contribute as activists, voters, and catalysts of political dialogue. In order to escape a place of political solitude, we must inspire a generation from apathy to interest, from isolation to collectivism.
Not only should we be responsible for our present, but we have an obligation to construct the kind of future which we might expect others to construct for us. Activism doesn’t apply just to rallies and marches, but to every aspect of political involvement. Only through this reformed view of student activism is our generation able to create a community of responsible citizens – through unified action, informed dialogue, and collective interest. The point of this blog is to inspire the part of every young adult voter in our country that needs encouragement in order to escape the isolation and create our own change.