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Where did the youth vote go in 2012?

By: Dartunorro Clark (dclar4@uic.edu), Editor-in-Chief 

American youth have always been a driving force in bringing attention to major social issues and an important factor in American politics. The youth were an important machine behind opposition to the Vietnam war and the segregationists in the Civil Rights movement.

In 1960, when John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th president of the United States, America saw the largest turnout of youth in American history. A feat not yet to be accomplished again to this day. The only election that has come as close was the 2008 election, in which Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. This was the second largest turnout of youth in American History and the election that put the first African-American as the Head of State. It was simply history being made, and the youth vote was right there, as it always was. 

Youth made voting and being informed on the American political scheme contagious in 2008, and throughout history. Voter registration rallies popping up on college campuses, canvassing, and various other get-out-the-vote (GOTV) missions prompted by youth.

However, in the months and days leading up to the most hotly contested presidential race in a generation, in 2012 the youth vote seems to have lagged and diminished. What happened to the youth vote?

As Washington Post writerGlyn Hill, noted in his article, “The brutal, take-no-prisoners, 2012 presidential campaign could not have been more different. The recession, foreclosure and banking crisis, unemployment and layoffs, and, hyper-partisan battles in Congress, and in state legislatures, have taken a toll on Americans sense of amity. Anger, disappointment, and recrimination are the order of the day. Obamania? Eh, not so much.”

With the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression plaguing America and the “dirty politics” that played out with these elections, Hill’s argument could be substantiated to give reason to the lagging of the youth vote.  

“Pollsters and pundits say they are no longer a major political factor,” stated Hill.  “They say  contend that young voters are as disillusioned as the adults; disenchanted with Obama and uninspired by Romney.”

A recent poll, released by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, found that “Young voters are significantly less engaged in this year’s election than at a comparable point in 2008 and now lag far behind older voters in interest in the campaign and intention to vote.” The graph of there findings (on the right) displays the drastic change in youth participation.

However, as a young person, this is my first time voting in a presidential election. In 2008, I was just a 16-year-old high school student when I saw Obama become president. This time around, I am a 20-year-old college student, and now I can be apart of history again.

The reason I am voting is because we too often complain about the state of our country and the world; whether it’s social security or student loans, national debt or military spending, LGBTQ rights or immigration. We have these strong opinions on issues that affect our well-being as citizens and voting is this form of direct-democracy to cast our decision for the person who represents where we stand. It does not matter if it is for the President of the United States, our district’s Congressman, or County Clerk. These people make major decisions on government functions locally and nationally. I want to be a part of the political process in one way or the other.

Who you choose to vote for does not matter. What matters is that you vote, keep yourself informed, and work hard to hold public officials accountable. Your vote is your voice.

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