Turning 18 is a big milestone for a lot of teenagers, one that used to be celebrated not only for the change of status from minor to adult, but also for the ability to vote. However, statistics reveal that this is true of fewer and fewer teenagers and young adults.
Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, director of CIRCLE, a center that studies civic engagement among young Americans, reported that “the percentage of 18-to-29-year-olds who voted in the 2014 midterm elections was 19.9, the lowest ever recorded, and significantly below the 24 percent who voted in 2010” (Weiss).
Of course, people older than 29 vote in presidential election years, meaning there is steady potential for the number of voters to grow. Unfortunately, closing the gap between young voters and older voters is going to be a challenge. In CIRCLE’s study, 12.4 million voters ages 29 and younger were identified as being registered voters in 2014; however, they chose not to cast a ballot that year. According to an article by The Boston Globe, if enough of those 12.4 million voters were mobilized in swing states, they would have the power to dramatically shift the election.
Bad news for politicians. Gaining the support of young voters isn’t going to be as easy as spearheading campaigns across popular social media platforms and appealing to millennials’ hatred for student loans and unfair taxes. There’s a far larger hurdle than ignorance to overcome: Distrust.
Harvard’s Institute of Politics released a survey illustrating young voters’ attitudes toward the most talked about political issues of our time such as global warming, police brutality and the issues involving ISIS.
“We believe it’s important to listen to our young people,” Maggie Williams, director of the Institute said. “Many are leading now and our choices will depend on their leadership.”
Millennials are trusting of scientific research, but deeply wary of the government, the American justice system and the media. Interestingly enough, despite being Democrat or Republican, 83% of millennials show no faith in Congress. Why? The majority of the Republican legislature declines to acknowledge the subjects Millennials care the most about. “Millennials are on a completely different page than most politicians in Washington, D.C.,” John Della Volpe, the director of polling, said. “This is a more cynical generation when it comes to political institutions.”
As a fellow millennial, I can honestly say that I don’t trust the government, and I definitely don’t trust the people behind the political scandals. Too much news consumption has skewed my view of politics, but can you blame me? As someone who once viewed the world as a safe place, I’m afraid for the future of not only the U.S., but the entire world.
Take Hillary Clinton, for example. On January 18th the Huffington Post published an article titled The Clinton Campaign Has Resorted to Lies to Beat Sanders, discussing Chelsea Clinton bad-mouthing Bernie Sanders’ health care proposal in an effort to spearhead her mom’s capricious campaign.
Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the CHIP program, dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” said the proud daughter. “I don’t want to empower Republican governors to take away Medicaid, to take away health insurance for low-income and middle-income working Americans. And I think very much that’s what Sen. Sanders’ plan would do.
However, according to the article, nothing about this statement is actually true, and the Sanders campaign was quick to call out Clinton, who clearing did not check her facts before announcing them to crowds of people.
The bill, the American Health Security Act of 2013, specifically strips insurance benefits from the Affordable Care Act, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicare and Medicaid. The bill also bans the sale of private health insurance that duplicates benefits provided by the government program.
The allegation that Sanders’ state-based American Health Security Program would strengthen Republican governors’ ability to take away health insurance is deceiving and downright false. Clinton’s malicious comments represent only a small portion of the Clinton campaign’s duplicity throughout the presidential election.
Along with deceitful and manipulative politicians, millennials’ erosion of confidence in the government also stems from a variety of unfortunate occurrences. Chris Cillizza, writer for The Washington Post, believes that the 9/11 attacks left an impression on millennials that is hard to transform: those in charge of protecting us and ensuring our safety may not always be capable of doing so. This growing mistrust and inability to feel like one is in good hands has led to a general sense of unease amid millennials, who no longer view governmental institutions as honest and ethical.
Cillizza is not far from the truth. Jean Twenge, the head author of a study published in Psychological Science, found that millennial approval of major institutions — “from Congress and corporations to the news media and educational and religious institutions — dropped more sharply than other generations in the decade that followed the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001” (Irvine). “Young people today feel disconnected and alienated,” said Twenge, author of Generation Me, which analyzes the mindset of today’s youth.
As someone who was in kindergarten when 9/11 happened, I cannot imagine all the raw emotions people were feeling after the tragic attacks. And although I was lucky enough to be relatively unaffected by the infamous moment in history, the fact that a terrorist attack so gruesome happened in our country makes me question the government’s ability to preserve the nature of the U.S.
Part of the reason the millennial generation is so untrusting of government bodies is because of the way they grew up, and the technological advances that ensued. According to D.C. McAllister, a writer for the Federalist, the reason millennials do not have confidence in the government is because “they are disconnected from other people on a personal, local level.” High divorce rates detach them from their families and their active participation on social media disengages them from their communities. Broken families and eyes constantly glued to screens leave many young adults brain-washed and uninterested in the issues that really matter.
However, as a millennial who is lucky enough to have happily married parents and a brain not completely fried from Kardashian news consumption, issues such as the nation’s overall safety and politicians’ transparency with the public impact my view of voting way more than high divorce rates and my generation’s unfortunate social media obsession.
How come every time I read or watch the news, there’s another scandal surrounding a presidential hopeful? Can no politician tell the truth anymore? Sure, everyone has skeletons in their closet, but this is beyond ridiculous. The people in charge of our safety need to held at a higher standard. Be transparent or we ignore you. Simple as that. Why should we lend our ears to people failing to hear us out, too busy playing a popularity contest while our nation is in trouble? All politics has become is a popularity contest doomed to fail. We’re tired of hearing about your corrupt lies and will only listen when we have a reason to. It’s 2016, it’s time for politicians to be ethical, or get out.
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