In the United States and abroad many young people don’t take an active role in the democratic system. According to US Census Bureau data, 58% of US citizens between ages 18 and 24 were not registered to vote. With less than half of this cohort registered to vote, and probably even less actually voting, the future voice of the nation is underrepresented in elections. The needs of this demographic are much different from the older generations. Yet, individuals in this age group have to deal with the consequences of voter outcomes for the longest, especially in cases of jarring political changes.
The recent Brexit vote shocked nations, individuals, and stock markets around the world in a “Leave” vote secured by only 4%. 75% of voters between ages 18 and 24 voted to stay in the EU. Though the voter turnout for this demographic only had a turnout of 36%, the lack of young voters is not exclusive to Brexit. There is a growing trend of young voters making a conscious choice to sit out of the political system participation. Young voters have the potential to make huge waves in the political climate. In the UK a larger turn out of young people could have struck down the Brexit movement. Why then do young people choose not to vote?
An article by The Economist helps to answer that question. Evidence shows that it is not laziness as many older people believe, but rather that young people simply do not have a large stake in the country’s society. As young people are more commonly seeking higher education and more fulfilling careers, they wait longer to become home owners and start families—factors that create a direct interest in how and where public spending for divisions such as schools, libraries, and parks is spent. Taking into account these conditions, if candidates want to secure new voters, they need to appeal to the issues that matter to younger voters, like higher education. An example of this is the US presidential hopeful Senator Bernie Sanders. His push for free education was very attractive to people who are not only paying large sums for education and taking out large loans, but also for the hundreds of thousands who cannot afford to pursue a college degree. His campaign was also relatively devoid of cynicism, another tactic that is attractive to young citizens. Though his campaign race is over, the political revolution he called for may live on and inspire young voters to take political action in the future. Inspiring young voters on either side of the aisle has been a challenge but they are an important voice for the future of their nations and the world.
The environment is a topic that is in dire need of the voices of these untapped voters. Thomas Steyer is a billionaire who has been spending millions of dollars to support political candidates who have strong environmental ideals. This year he has changed the direction he and his advocacy group are going. This election cycle they are campaigning to get young people to vote. Steyer noticed that young people “care deeply about climate change”. Encouraging young people to get registered and get out to the booths this November may be one of the best ways for his group to have a positive impact on the environment this cycle and looking forward.