Why young Americans avoid involvement in politics


DonkeyHotey from Flickr.com

The animal symbols for the Republicans and Democrats.

Gabriel Howard, Staff Writer

You can’t escape politics, yet a lot more students seem to be doing so each day.

Whether students hear about something happening in our government briefly in the news, or a teacher dedicates an entire class period to discussing issues with students, politics continue to change the shape of America and the rest of the world. 

Politics have evolved and changed from decade to decade, but none has been more controversial than politics since the 2016 presidential election. Despite the fact that scandals, debates, and more have become part of America’s daily discourse from the barber shop to the courthouse, most students (in high school and college) and adults still tend to avoid the whole mess.

Today I ask a simple question: “Why?” Why are many people becoming less involved?

The answer is a bit more obvious than you may think. According to Yes! Magazine, the main reasons young people turn away politics are apathy, disengagement and hopelessness. These come from upcoming responsibilities they are beginning to face, as well as their emotional status.

For instance, students feel pressure just coping with real, daily problems, such as loan debts from college and the desire to do well to earn a good living. Others, since childhood, have experiences nihilism and a general sense of dread for the future of our country; an example of this is of the global climate change, with an estimated 52% of Americans beyond anxious about the negative impact we are having on mother earth.

”I believe that one of the reasons why there is an apathy in students, both at the high school and college levels, is a lack of understanding of the importance of politics,” Sergio Butron states. “I believe that many people don’t fully understand how impactful it is to participate in government and politics – even if it is as simple as merely voting.”

Some students add other causes to the mix.

“I think that more students are involved than they ever have been,” senior Josh Birnbaum stated. “The only reason why some aren’t is because they most likely don’t have access to social media. Social media is one of the most powerful tools to get updated on politics. If someone doesn’t have access to social media, then they most likely don’t care for politics.”

Let’s take a look at some statistics. According to the website “Gallup”, 82 percent of people (age 65 and up) have an interest in voting and politics, whereas 26 percent of people (under 30 years of age) are not interested. The radical shift in percentages affirms that more older folk from eras like the “Boomer” era and the turn of the new millennium (I.E. shifting from the 80s-90s to the 2000s) are determining the outcome of political decisions. 

On the other side of the spectrum, there are some students who support political movements.

“I’m crazy about politics,” said sophomore Daisy Simons. “The reason why our generation is less interested in politics is because we have a a more liberal society. We have more genders and more options; the way you were raised affects your political position.”

My parents are both in the educational business. Both of them work around the clock to provide an education to children who have parents that are affected by political choices, like the government shutdown.

They are constantly tuning in to the news every night on stations like NBC.  They even discuss with me the rationale behind their political decisions and choices. “The reason I think high school students are not very politically involved,” my father, Justin says, “is because the issues that the President and other politicians talk about do not affect most 15 to 18 year olds.”

My mother has a different outlook and experience during her senior year in high school. “The years I was in high school,” my mom, Spiri, says, “many historical, political events happened. One that I was most in tuned to was the destruction of the Berlin Wall.” For those who do not know, during the Cold War, the Communist party and their leader, Nikita Khrushchev, built the Berlin Wall to split the country of Germany in two. She was one of the many students in school who watched the toppling of the wall on national TV, saying “I was elated that this wall came down and that these people were now able to enjoy the same freedom as I was enjoying.”

I compare politics to something like a spider’s web – when someone lands in the web, and start digging around into what politics are really involved, they become ensnared and trapped. The public becomes tangled in drama, media coverage that may not be true or fake news, and other factors like general misguidance and public opinion. 

In my eyes, we are becoming more indifferent to the politics as a result of misguidance, misinformation, and opinions that are muddying the waters.

To bring this discussion back around, how can we improve this problem? How can we engage more and more students, to make them more attentive to day-to-day politics?

I would say that the biggest thing a person could do is to stay well informed. With fake news and media on the rise, it is important for all individuals to do some research into biased television news stations. The more well-informed the public is with the facts about our political stance, the less likely they will be in a biased viewpoint.

I would also recommend conversing with students and family members about certain politics and where they stand on issues. While this does have potential to cause arguments – especially if your family believes in a radical shift in politics – consider and ask about their opinion on certain topics, and then share your viewpoint.

According to the website “The Conversation”, the best thing to do in this situation is pause, let them explain their stance (and understand their viewpoint), and then allow your thoughts on the stance.

Here are a few links that may help.

College Freshmen Are More Politically Engaged Than They Have Been In Decades

Daily Bruin- Survey shows students lack political involvement on campus

Forbes- Colleges must educate for political engagement