Editorial: I want to be forever young?

One of this project’s objectives was to engage young people with politics. An earlier editorial highlighted how the majority of 18-29 year olds – surveyed by Pew – showed a lack of enthusiasm for political news. A new survey by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), however, shows increasing numbers of youth voters are engaging with this year’s presidential campaign.

A group of young voters were surveyed during the summer and then again in mid-October. The number of those likely to vote has increased by 9.9 percentage points, from 44.7% to 54.6%. Meanwhile, the number of those who admitted paying attention to the election has also grown considerably, up from 56.1% to 71%.

It’s not all-good news, however. If we look at the aforementioned figures, that’s only half of the young population likely to vote. Yes, we should celebrate the fact there are more young people likely to vote. That’s great, but what about the other half? How can we engage them?

The same survey by CIRCLE found over 40% of young Americans don’t know key information about voting processes, whilst 20% of those asked did not have a driver’s licence. You may think, “Surely their ability to drive doesn’t affect their ability to vote?” You’d be wrong. It’s a form of ID and something needed as part of the registration process in some states.

If young voters were better informed of the voting procedures, I’d like to think we’d see an increased turnout. It’s up to politicians, the media and other key figures to make sure information is clear, precise and is available to the masses about how to vote.

A large number of young people (84.9%) haven’t been contacted or are unsure as to whether they have by at least one of the campaigns. We moan about leafleting and being harassed by politicians up for re-election, but at least we’re given the opportunity to be informed of whom we can vote for, when we can, and reasons why.

This figure has been broken down further, confirming a few of the findings from Pew’s research conducted earlier this year. Young people who don’t attend college are less likely to be contacted on behalf of a campaign. Obama’s campaign has focused on contacting youth (11.5%) with college backgrounds, whilst Mitt Romney’s team have focused on non-college youth (6.6%), as both campaigns aim to restore numbers in weak areas of their support.

Unsurprisingly, young people with college backgrounds are more likely to know the photo ID laws and early voting laws in their respective states. It’s about finding a channel to tap into the lives of young people who don’t attend college and restoring a political education that is needed to encourage a democratic growth.

The reason why we’re putting so much emphasis on the need for young people to engage with politics is because they’re the next generation of voters. If they don’t start voting now, will they vote when they’re older? If they don’t, future governments and administrations become less accountable.

Incidentally, throughout this project I have felt myself age considerably. I remarked to my housemate this morning, “I feel like a zombie.” He replied, reassuringly, “Yeah, you look like one, too.” I expect to find myself on Wednesday morning with more grey hairs than Obama and bags under my eyes that Droopy would be proud of.

But if our efforts at least have helped re-engage young people at Bournemouth University with politics, whether US- or UK-based, that’s worth a few lost hours of sleep and something proud to be a part of.



(Graphic courtesy of CIRCLE)

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