Millennials, those born between 1980 and the mid 2000’s, are known for their aptitude for working with technology, a love of social media and selfies. What we are not known for is engaging in political activities.
Research from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that 49% of overall millennials show no political engagement. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2014 only 23.1% of people aged 18 to 34 voted. This apathy does not bode well for the the future of politics, especially with the 2016 presidential race currently underway. There’s still hope though. It’s not too late to start paying attention to the race, and here’s a few reasons why.
It directly affects you.
I’m not talking about the fact that the future president will be making decisions that affects citizens. While that is true, I’m talking about how the future President will affect you, the college student. College expense has been a huge problem in the US. National Public Radio recently reported that 40 million Americans currently hold $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. Now it has become a major issue in the race and candidates are proposing solutions. NPR’s Anya Kamenetz recently summarized certain candidates’ plans:
Democrat Bernie Sanders calls for free tuition,
Martin O’Malley (D) wants college to be debt-free.
Republican Marco Rubio plans to make paying back student loans easier while
Jeb Bush (R) says he will lower costs overall.
Hillary Clinton (D) has a complicated plan that involves things public two-year colleges being tuition free, giving incentive grants to states agreeing to no-loan tuition, students having a 10 hour a week job, and an easier time paying back loans.
As candidates unveil their plans, it is up to you to listen and evaluate their worth because chances are high that you are going to deal with paying back loans.
You can make a difference
According to the Harvard IOP study of Young Americans’ Attitudes Towards Politics and Public Service, trust in governmental institutions is still low, with all but the military under 50% trusted to do the right thing. With so little trust in government, many millennials are avoiding public service careers according to political journalist Ron Fournier of the Atlantic. Most people, millennials included, can agree that the government needs change, but how can anything change if people refuse to participate? Same goes for voting, if you don’t vote how can you expect something to change? Millennials complain that it doesn’t matter if they vote because candidates aren’t listening. Well, candidates might listen if more people aged 18-34 went out and voted.
You can learn about yourself
In an election, candidates are asked about their opinions on controversial issues. Listening to their responses is a great way to figure out your own opinions. For example, say someone were to ask you your beliefs about abortion. Maybe you are not sure or don’t know how to articulate those beliefs. By looking at the candidates responses, you can decide what you agree and disagree on in their statements. College is the time to explore your interests and beliefs, to learn how to be independent. Forming your political beliefs is a part of that process.