The 2020 presidential election is approaching at rapid speed and calls to mind the position of voters and a dilemma that has plagued our country for decades: The absence of young voters.
A mere 43% of 18-20 -year-olds voted in 2016, and only 16% voted in 2014, according to an article in Duke Today. Why is the voter turnout of young people so limited?
Although there are innumerable contributing factors, both the misunderstanding of the government’s role and political polarization are to blame. Relying on formal academic institutions for political understanding is oftentimes insufficient, which further proves the importance of self-education.
Both Founding Fathers Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson ardently believed that a literate and educated citizenry was necessary for the functioning of a democracy. Therefore, young people should invest time and improve their political comprehension instead of resigning to confusion because their votes shape the fate of the country. When people do not have a shared reality, they cannot have a shared democracy.
The annual Annenberg Constitution Day Civics Survey found that only 26% of Americans are able to correctly name all three branches of government and an astonishing 37% cannot name any of the rights secured under the First Amendment.
When voters fail to understand the basics of how a government functions, then it is reasonable to say voting is out of the question. The nature of politics must also include conversation and compromise, which has proven to be nearly impossible in contemporary times.
President Donald Trump’s impeachment and the reactions during the 2020 State of the Union have been prime examples of the political polarization of Democrats and Republicans alike.
However, this is not a new reality. In 2014, the Pew Research Center calculated that 27% of Democrats saw the Republican Party as a threat to the nation’s well-being and 36% of Republicans saw the Democratic Party equally as threatening to the nation’s security. As each party continues to demonize the other, political progress is halted and resentment and alienation only intensify.
As shown through news media outlets, political polarization is a major turn off for voters who would rather not become entangled in political complexities and mindless bickering. However, despite the political discrepancies we face, I encourage young people to take the initiative and vote because it is our responsibility to maintain our country’s founding principles of independence, equality and freedom.
Your future relies on your contribution and your individual opportunity to vote, which should never be thrown to the wayside. Our nation functions because of the vote, and we have a moral duty to be a part of the political process because of what is at stake.