Youth activists are driving social change today in ways not seen since the 1960s. From organizing nationwide protests and boycotts, to testifying before Congress and making the rounds on cable news, young people are making their voice heard via any and every channel. Well, perhaps every save one. If history is any guide, all of this energy won’t necessarily translate to the ballot box.
In 2014, only 15 percent of eligible voters ages 18-24 reported voting. Over the last 30 years, estimates have never placed that number above 25 percent. Compare that to 40-50 percent-plus for every other age group. Still, in my firm’s nationwide survey last month, 80 percent of young people under 18 said they plan to vote when eligible.
So, what happens to all of the enthusiasm and energy? Why don’t young people turnout? Some argue it’s simply apathy. They’re too busy Instagramming their avocado toast to make it to the polls. That argument is mostly refuted by our own research and the anecdotal evidence of the last year.
Others make the point that there’s a vicious cycle at play. Politicians don’t care about their interests, so they don’t vote. As a result, politicians don’t care about their interests. There’s certainly some truth to that.
But digging deeper, what exactly are the interests of young people?