Why Aren't Young People Voting?

We want you to vote. 

All the hype about the 2016 presidential election has been overwhelming, to say the least. With such strong and conflicting opinions everywhere, it’s hard to find a source that is unbiased and trustworthy when it comes to deciding which presidential candidate best fits your own views — if you’re planning on voting at all.

It was easy to make fun of the election before we were 18 years old and didn’t hold the responsibility of voting. However, the decisions these candidates plan on making are starting to actually affect us as we grow older. The decisions to be made about abortion, student debt and basic social injustices are now beginning to affect the youngest voters.

So why are some young people still apprehensive about voting at all?

According to the Huffington Post, just 19 percent of voters in the 2012 election were ages 18 to 29. Cliff Zukin, a political science professor from Rutger’s University, is quoted as saying that “most young people see [voting] as a choice rather than a duty.”

Ethan Fletcher, a senior at Ithaca College, voted in 2012 and plans to vote in the 2016 election. He believes that there wasn’t a huge youth vote in 2012 because “there wasn’t a candidate exciting enough for young people.”

“Obama’s campaign was pretty by the book and I was pretty sure he was going to win,” Fletcher said. “He was the incumbent and Romney was really floundering during the end, so at the time I was sure my vote wouldn’t matter.”

Tumblr via teachinginreallife

Tumblr via teachinginreallife

Fletcher also believes young people have a harder time voting because it’s difficult to register without a set permanent address.

“Absentee voting is a real pain. If I wanted to vote ‘normally’ [from my permanent address], I’d have to travel two hours to do so, and other college students would need to travel even farther,” he explained. “Generally speaking, young people aren’t settled down yet and can’t easily cast a vote.”

The inconvenience of voting in general is also something many Americans simply don’t want to deal with. Kristofer Stensland, a 22-year-old who hasn’t voted in any elections yet, believes the annoyance of registering could be a part of why some Americans don’t vote at all.

“People out of state forget to register or get absentee ballots,” Stensland said. “I think it’s out of laziness. Not that it’s hard, but you have to do it.”

Stensland also believes that non-voters in general may just be sheltering themselves from what they don’t want to hear when it comes to getting educated about different candidates — especially when it comes to social media.

“Social media is the worst. People unfriend others who side with a candidate they don’t agree with,” he said. “It makes us only see our own opinions and makes us look at things we only agree with. If all you’re doing is seeing people post the same things you are, it doesn’t challenge your opinions or thoughts on a particular subject.”

According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, 70 percent of Americans were registered to vote, and 57.7 percent of eligible voters ended up actually voting.

Stensland plans on voting for the first time in the 2016 election. As negative of an impact that social media can have on one’s opinions, he believes it can also help bring publicity to candidates who might not get a lot of attention in the media.

“Social media’s helped me discover candidates, since I don’t watch the news,” he said. “I might not have discovered candidates like Bernie Sanders or Rand Paul.”

However, finding unbiased sources to trust when seeking political information can be tough.

“I didn’t vote in 2012 because I didn’t know enough to make an informed decision,” he said. “If you’re voting, you should be well-informed. I want to do more personal research and find unbiased sources. I think an important thing to do is watch the debates, but afterwards checking out the reviews of them and their analyses.”

With certain media attaching themselves to candidates and reporting stories that adhere to their own political agenda, it’s hard to trust anything we’re ingesting from news sources. This leaves the work to American voters. We need to check our sources and even fact-check what candidates are saying to the entire country. Just because someone says something with confidence doesn’t mean it’s true.

Feature photo by Elliott Stallion/ VIA Unsplash