After the presidential election results hit America, protesters took to the streets of Oregon to demonstrate their opposition to President Donald Trump. Of the protesters the police arrested, 60 percent had not voted, according to the New York Daily News.

In 2016, about 50 percent of the millennial population, who make up the 19 to 35 demographic, cast a ballot for the presidential election, contrasting sharply with the silent generation’s (age 72 and older) voter turnout of 72 percent.  Given these statistics, it seems that millennials, the future of America, are alarmingly uninvolved in politics; that needs to change if our democracy is to function properly.

The lack of involvement in politics by young voters was apparent in the 2016 presidential election. Those aged 18 to 29 voted largely for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who clinched 55 percent of the young vote. Meanwhile, Trump received only 37 percent of the young vote and was carried by older ballot-punchers.

Younger voters had the opportunity to sway the entire presidential election but were too uninformed about political issues, which deterred their desire to act. A survey done in 2012 by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) including 4,483 Americans ages 18 to 24 found that 51.2 percent of young Americans thought the federal government spent more on foreign aid than social services when in fact the government spends significantly more on social services.

Additionally, around one quarter of those surveyed were poorly informed about issues specific to the 2016 presidential campaign and most of the non-voting individuals were also uninformed about politics. CIRCLE’s survey suggests that those who are uninformed are not so keen to vote.

What happens when young people pass up opportunities to get politically involved? Our democracy no longer represents all Americans. When one person chooses not to vote, someone else will make your decisions for you and there is no guarantee they will make the wiser choice.

Ironically, millennials are the ones who are going to experience the brunt of the changes made in America, yet they are doing very little to influence these changes. This is why not being involved in politics as a young person is ultimately self-destructive.

Despite the alarming nature of the situation at hand, young people have actually shown to be more resilient in the face of political disagreements than their adult counterparts, according to The Washington Post. For adults, face-to-face political disagreements are shown to lower political participation while young people are not affected by direct confrontation.

According to the Pew Research Center, millennials also have a lower level of social trust than any other past generation, with only 19 percent agreeing that “most people can be trusted.”  A 2015 Harvard Youth poll found that only 37 percent of young people (ages 18 to 29) claimed to trust the President. This level of distrust in people could also be the reason why youth are so uninvolved in politics.

Some argue that America’s democracy is running its course and if a demographic chooses not to get involved in politics, it is simply preference. However, it seems to be the other way around. A good democracy does not mean choosing to stay home instead of voting. A good democracy consists of widespread voter participation.

Some Americans might think their vote doesn’t matter, but the infamous 2000 presidential election shows that is not true. George W. Bush won Florida by an incredibly small 537 votes over Al Gore. Florida’s then 25 electoral votes could have put either candidate over the winning threshold. The 2000 election serves as an important reminder that major decisions sometimes come down to a small number of votes.

You can influence the political climate even if you are not eligible to vote by attending Palo Alto Unified School District board meetings or contacting your local representative about issues that matter to you. What is important is that you are making an effort to stay informed.

Young people need to check the news and stay updated on decisions being made in America. Most of the decisions politicians are deciding in the years to come will become changes that we will have to live with for the rest of our lives, so it is best to know what they entail. Being involved and informed is what democracy needs to function, and it is the responsibility of young people to do exactly that.

About The Author

Noah Baum
News & Opinion Editor

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