It is often said that young people are too uninformed, too apathetic to vote, and are as such often ignored completely during the election season. It has only been recently, with the rise of former-candidate Bernie Sanders, that young people nationwide began to truly find their voices.
But is that case here at URI?
In a survey of 50 University of Rhode Island students, 90 percent responded that they are registered to vote in their respective states. This is a surprising statistic, considering only 45 percent of eligible young voters (ages 18-29) voted in the 2012 presidential election, and according to circleyouth.org a mere 19.9 percent voted in the 2014 elections, an all-time low for the demographic.
It is easy enough to register, but what really matters is putting that registration to use and voting. Thirty-eight students of those surveyed said they intend to vote in the upcoming election, with four undecided. This leaves eight who have decided to not vote at all.
These non-voters are the most interesting cases. Twenty three percent of those who will not be voting said it is because they do not feel educated enough to make a decision, while another 23 percent say they are simply not interested. Others wrote in answers such as “my vote doesn’t matter” and “I can’t choose between two terrible candidates.” It is important to remember though that this particular question had a very low number of responses, and therefore may not accurately reflect the actual opinions of most URI students.
Education is one of the strongest factors that influences whether young people become civically engaged. Over time, civics classes in public schools have been phased out, leaving children without the necessary message of the importance and duty of voting, as well as how to go about voting in general. If children do not learn when they are young, they are considerably less likely to become engaged later in life. This general apathy is echoed in the responses above, with students who are either uninformed or uninterested in becoming informed. But with information more accessible than ever before, a lack of available information is hardly a valid argument.
In the old days, anyone who wanted to learn more about a candidate and his or her political platforms had to go out and purchase a newspaper, or listen to or watch debates. Today, this same information is available at the touch of a button. Even a simple web search will yield more than enough information about campaigns and platforms. Websites like Facebook and Twitter allow media to be dispersed at incredible volumes, and extensive media coverage makes ignoring the election nearly impossible. So how are young people not informed enough to make a decision and cast their vote? Simply put, the answer is this: you can give a person as much information as you want, but you can’t make them want to read it. The only way to get young people to vote is to create an interest.
We want to hear from you! How do you think we can increase young people’s interest in voting? Do you have thoughts on the current election that you want highlighted in the next article? Let me know at Rachel_nunes@my.uri.edu, and don’t forget to take part in the biweekly survey, located on the Cigar website: rhodycigar.com.