A popular retort to have when you’re a young privileged American, going to college and the target of huge grassroots movements telling you to “get out the vote” is: “Why?” and also “Why does everyone feel so entitled to shove the fact that people have fought, struggled, and died in order to vote down my throat if I don’t want to vote; people fought for the right to own guns, should we all go out and buy guns?”
Oh, ye of little forethought, or thought.
I won’t answer that for you. Because it is your right to vote and not your obligation to vote. It is a choice you make to abstain from the political process and be a silent bystander, or to be active, take part and let yourself be heard by our lawmakers. That’s up to you.
But here are some facts about today’s youth (i.e. you), voting and why you and all your friends might be able to make an impact. Take ’em or leave ’em.
Fact #1: We are a big deal.
Millennial’s, me and you (and all those who grew up with Boys from the Backstreet and the existential Ren and Stimpy) at 46 million, make up an entire quarter of the voting-age American public. Of that 46 million, minorities make up 40%, more than any other generation in American history according to the 2010 census.
Usually pandering to AARP is a big deal, since seniors historically have the highest turnout rates of all age groups. They don’t have jobs, they love to get together in groups and play golf or mahjong, and then go vote. Standard. But Gramps might not have as much clout as he once did; Millennial’s now outnumber their elders by approximately 7 million and consequently have the potential to have the bigger influence in this election.
Fact #2: We’re in school and we’re paying attention.
Millennial’s are arguably the most plugged in, the most third-arm-electronic-device prone, and the most likely to start a blog after we graduate. But guess what? We’re also the most educated generation in our history.
According to the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan fact tank and social science research group, 54% of Millennial’s had achieved at least some college education when they were ages 18 to 28. This measure of higher education was lower in each previous generation, with Generation Xers coming in second highest at 49%.
Fact #3: We think equality is a neat idea.
It’s just as they feared. The majority of Millennial’s are a bunch of long-haired, bleeding-heart liberals with a progressive stance on social issues, and embrace the idea of a more unified, socially equal America. And as almost a whole quarter of voting-age America, Millennial’s have the potential to make a significant impact on “hot button” issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and contraceptive use.
According to research conducted by the Center for American Progress:
- 64% of 18- to 29-year-old’s support the DREAM Act, which, if passed, would open up a pathway to legal residential status for youth who were brought here as children and meet certain educational criteria.
- 84% support affordable access to prescription birth control
- 62% of young people favor allowing gay and lesbian couples to legally wed
Fact #4: We don’t care about China.
Millennial’s believe the government would be most effective in working to solve economic issues such as:
- Closing the wealth gap (73% ages 18-24 agree current American economic system favors the wealthy, 72% support increasing tax rate on Americans earning $1 million+/year)
- Reviving the workforce
- Investing in education and fighting soaring college costs (73% are more supportive of government involvement in making college more affordable vs. only 56% support from other generations in the population)
We’re pretty awesome.
Unfortunately, while a large portion of Millennial’s are politically engaged, a study by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) found that 23% were not engaged at all. Remember, that’s 23% of 46 million underutilized potential for change.
In the last presidential election of 2008, just over half of us, 51% of voter-age young people, turned out to vote — the third highest turnout rate since voting age was lowered to 18 in 1970. We can do better than that, best-generation-ever-Millennial’s.
According to the CIRCLE poll, 72.6% of young people “believe they have the power to change things in this country.”
Core values shared by a majority of Millennial’s can have huge impacts on American politics, but only if they are politically active and engaged. They must express their views if they want to see the changes they support and believe in.
Get up, go out and vote.
The last day to early vote is Saturday, November 3rd, from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. at the Alachua County Supervisor of Election Office, the Millhopper Branch Library, and the Tower Road Branch Library.
After that, it’s all November 6th, baby.
Find your precinct here (TIP: For the street name, don’t type in directions like N or NE, just the first part of your address; i.e. for “NE 5th Ave” just type “5th” and let it auto-fill) and give yourself plenty of time; there may be a wait. But your first time (or even your second time) should be special, and trust us, it’s almost always worth the wait.