Thursday, April 26, 2007

Yeah, And If Pigs Had Wings

The title of the op-ed by Froma Harrop in the Providence Journal (courtesy of Real Clear Politics) is "If Young Americans Voted" could just as easily called, If Pigs Had Wings. Sure, if young americans voted, we might have a differnt Congress, we might have a different President, and we might have a different everything.

But they don't vote and in the 35 years since the ratification of the 26th Amendment (which lowered the voting age to 18), the political parties and many others have been searching for a way to get more 18-25 years olds to the polls and nothing has worked.

Harrop points to a recent Pew Research Center study which found that 59 percent of 18-29 year olds had a low knowledge of current affairs.
Another recent survey, from Harvard's Institute of Politics, attempts to assess the political attitudes of the 29 million Americans age 18 and to 24. It finds that 35 percent identify with Democrats and 25 percent with Republicans, but 40 percent with neither. Some 61 percent think health insurance is a basic right, and only 23 percent want religious values to play a strong role in government.

The Millennials sound liberal but feel independent. If push comes to shove, they'd probably be Democratic voters, were they to vote.

Stand aside, Boomers and Xers, the Harvard report declares, "The Millennial Generation is preparing in 2008 to make their voice heard again, perhaps louder than ever." We shall see.
Indeed, we shall see. But I wouldn't hold my breath about getting more 18-29 year olds to the polls.

It is not that these younger people don't care, its that they don't feel compelled to vote. Whether it is apathy or a general feeling of inability to make a difference, most young people don't vote. Until a motivator can be found, they won't vote in droves either.

One Democrat friend said that the war in Iraq may motivate them to go to the polls. When asked why? The response was, because they are the generation that would fight the war. When reminded that the military is an all-volunteer force and this generation simply didn't need to volunteer, the response was silence.

Motivation to vote is a tricky thing and it is largely based upon roots. Having roots in a community, things like home ownership, kids in school, church attendence and other factors that bring a person into a community are much better predictors of voting behavior. These are all things that most 18-29 year olds don't have. That is not a knock against them, it is simply a fact.

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