Study finds young Americans are less likely to vote
According to the results of a “HuffPost/YouGov” poll, Millennials, or young Americans born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, are less likely to vote and also do not think not all citizens should vote unless they are familiar with current events and politics.
In the poll, 1,000 adults in the United States were interviewed on Nov. 5 and 6, 2014 regarding how important it is to vote in the 2014 midterm elections.
David Greenberg, associate professor in the Departments of History and Journalism and Media Studies, said it is not necessary to be an expert in politics, government and current events to vote, but to at least hold a basic familiarity. He thinks citizens can achieve familiarity with a modest amount of effort.
“The notion that voting [should] somehow be limited to those who are qualified to vote is one with a long history,” Greenberg said. “This argument has been going back to the beginning of American history and the beginning of democracy.”
Greenberg said if people minimally follow the news, they would see that they have gathered a general idea about which political party they prefer and which two or three candidates they prefer.
The threshold in having a moderately informed opinion is fairly low, he said.
Elizabeth Matto, director of the Youth Political Participation Program, said in traditional political participation where voting is most prominent, there is a strenuous connection between young people and engagement. Similarly, she said there is a weak connection between millennials and voting.
There are many possible reasons for millennials to feel disengaged from voting, she said.
“There are good reasons not to vote on Election Day, especially in the United States. Just the fact that in the United States you have to take it upon yourself and take the initiative to register,” Matto said.
While she said voting is important and direct way to be an active citizen of democracy, she does not think it is the “be-all and end-all” of political participation.
There are many other important and effective ways to participate in the political process such as protesting, demonstrating and contacting government officials, she said.
Rebecca Little, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, said she sees voting as a right, not a duty or choice.
“It is a choice for an informed citizen to make if they believe their vote will provide a sound contribution to the benefit of society,” she said. “It is perfectly legitimate to opt out of voting if you don’t believe doing so will be in your best interest and the best interest of those around you.”
Little said she has not voted because she believes it is fundamental to be aware and knowledgeable of particular candidates and issues at hand before voting.
But in the future, she does intend on informing herself and then voting. She said it is an important goal for her because she thinks if enough people adopt a similar view about informative participation, change can happen.
Although Little does see voting as an effective form of political participation, she also said she feels that the importance of voting has reduced since the influence of lobbyists and corporations has increased in the political realm.
“As loopholes and monetary influence has skyrocketed through the course of American history, voting has less of an impact,” Little said. “Whether this is statistically true or not can be debated, but the impact is evident in how people view government officials in recent decades.”
She said the role of corruption, bureaucracy and lack of trust in the system has emerged as a theme in the media, so voters see these elements as outweighing their influence. She said this results in a defeated citizenry and scant voter turnout.
Greenberg does not think it is dangerous that millenials feel like their vote does not matter, but rather regrettable. The democratic system could be nourished if more American citizens shared an opinion and voted regarding who governs them, he said.
“I find high [voting] turnout to be heartening and encouraging. On the other hand, there’s also a risk because you have people who aren’t well informed or who vote based on impulses,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg said it is easy to become despaired and think that voting will not make a difference, but history shows that a group of people who think similarly and act together can exert influence.
In the case of political participation, Greenberg said voting is essentially effective in a particular group of people, such as the minority group of young people.
“In a certain technical sense, individual vote does matter,” he said.