Many students of The Gregory School will finally be able to participate in one of the United States’ famed traditions this year: voting.
Although voting is in essence an “adult” privilege, historically young people have played an enormous role in politics.
From the Civil Rights movements of the 1960’s to MTV’s 1990’s “Rock the Vote” campaign intended to revitalize political activism in young people, the truth is that no matter how clichéd it may appear, youth are the future. It is in their best interest to participate in the political process that will determine the nation they get to grow up in.
Furthermore, often it is young people who have been able to direct public attention to major political issues. Consider the 26th Amendment, rallied for during the 1960s in large part as a consequence of the student activism movement protesting the Vietnam War.
The truth ultimately though is that teenagers and young people of voting age live different lives than their older counterparts. They are affected by different issues, different policies, and have probably been shaped by different worldviews. Consequently, over the years the “youth vote,” just like the “black vote” or “women’s vote” has become yet another political demographic candidates aim to capture.
Which is to say that the youth vote counts, more than ever. Researchers at Tufts noted that had presidential candidate Mitt Romney won half the youth votes in Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida — or if young voters sat out election day 2012 — Romney would have triumphed over President Obama.
Consequently, current presidential candidates utilize social media like never before, broadcasting their beliefs through Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Many candidates also have partnered with current film, television, athletic, and fashion icons worshipped by young people.
The medium works both ways though. Social media has also enabled young people to participate and stay in the loop about politics more easily than ever before. The popular messaging application Snapchat has featured political content by actively covering presidential debates and state elections on their “Stories” feature, serving almost as revitalized, 21st century political news coverage. Snapchat reports that their “Stories” content is viewed upwards of 500 million times a day, a large proportion of which are young people.
Social media isn’t without its setbacks. Hillary Clinton, along with a continued endeavor to engage youth voters, tweeted in August to her 4.65 million Twitter followers: “How does your student loan debt make you feel? Tell us in 3 emojis or less.” It was a move that backfired, as quickly swarms of replies from young people criticized her for attempting to minimize an issue as large as $200,000 in debt before graduation as “emoji-worthy.”
A political disconnect between generations is often inevitable, but this disconnect becomes especially relevant when politicians attempt to actively appeal to young people.Currently Clinton and Sanders share possession over the 2016 youth vote, with Clinton outpolling Sanders by 9%. According to constituents though, major differences exist between the methods of the two in targeting young people.
In junior Mandarava Cox’s opinion, a proponent of Sanders, the difference lies in attitude. She explained, “Hillary is treating youth like little kids that can vote, while Bernie is treating us like intelligent individuals able to make decisions for ourselves.”
She added, “Hillary Clinton is trying so hard to appeal to young voters by getting on ‘our level’ by using things like social media and jokes. Bernie Sanders is appealing to younger voters by giving us what we want: health care, affordable education, etc.”
According to a poll conducted by The Gregorian Chant, 60% of all upper schoolers currently plan to vote as Democrats in the upcoming 2016 elections. 15.4% plan to vote as Republicans, while 25% of respondents remain undecided. Along with this, 55.6% of respondents favor Hillary Clinton as presiden, 15.6% would vote for Bernie Sanders, and 13.3% would vote for Donald Trump.
As Gregory School upperclassmen approach the realization that they now will be able to vote in America’s widely celebrated democratic process, they face also the same questions all voters do: who will they support, what will they support, and why?
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