Youth Voices in Voting
BY AVNI MISHRA '23
Divisive federal representatives in recent years have certainly made politics a front-and-center discussion for many awkward family dinners. It appears that these conversations involving younger generations have begun occurring more frequently; according to Tufts University, voters ages 18 to 25 had a turnout rate of 27%, with some states that contested close elections between different parties seeing an even higher rate—31% in Florida, Georgia, Michigan, North Carolina, and more. Compared to the historical average of 20%, this is a notable increase that follows a growing movement to cater politics towards the younger generation. News channels and online forums have started to discuss setting maximum age limits on significant political positions. This shift in the importance of youth voters will likely trigger an increased emphasis on youth politics in the coming year, and frankly, it’s about time. By prioritizing the younger generation’s voice in our government bodies and replacing older, jaded politicians, we have the potential to improve congressional efficiency and achieve general satisfaction among the American people.
Despite sharing a party name, Millennials and Gen Z Republicans show some significantly different trends in opinion than their older counterparts. The Pew Research Center notes that Republicans ages 18 to 39 are more likely than voters ages 58 to 76—or baby boomers—to admit that humans cause considerable damage to the climate and consequently support alternate fuel and energy conservation initiatives. They even feel more comfortable saying the government is doing too little to combat climate change. With the current partisan disagreements of how to deal with climate change, listening to these younger Republican voices can push legislation for government action.
This is, of course, if younger voters feel compelled to align with a party at all. Politico reports that 42% of Gen Z voters identify as independent party voters compared to the national average of 24%. This distinction does not come at the expense of progress and government action, however. Young voters still care deeply about advancing discussions and legislation—they simply care less about the party backing those decisions. Instead of voting for a party, their vote is cast with a politician's history and opinions in mind. This acceptance of cross-party voting demonstrates a break in the heated, stunting history of partyism in American politics. Pew reports that over the past 50 years, politicians in the House and Senate have gradually leaned further into liberal or conservative policies with very little overlap. This polarization has prevented crucial laws from passing amid government shutdowns and filibusters, as well as segregating and demonizing individuals in our communities. If the new generation of politicians can overcome this immense struggle, our future Congress can finally create productive and consistent change.
Despite the recent increase in numbers, eligible youth voters have historically had the lowest turnout compared to other age demographics. Even now, many refrain from voting in part because they feel disconnected with the political world. When your representatives are 70-year-old balding men, it can feel like political conversations are not inclusive. But with this trend of younger voters becoming more involved in politics, turnout rates and interest will likely explode. With greater representation of younger politicians, younger voters will feel empowered to get involved in their own political sphere. The future of American politics is in good hands.