Young voters look forward to first caucus on Monday

With 2020 Iowa caucus quickly approaching, many students are faced with the opportunity to be a part of the presidential election process for the very first time. The 2016 Iowa caucuses saw more youth involvement than ever, with Republicans reaching record turnouts of ages 17-29 and Democrats hitting their second highest numbers. 

But while youth caucus turnout has been on the rise, many still feel uninformed and underrepresented. 

This kind of voter apathy can be incredibly detrimental to turnout numbers, and the younger demographic is especially susceptible to it. Voter apathy can stem from many places, but often comes from either feeling uninformed on the process, or feeling that one vote holds little sway in the grand scheme. Combatting voter apathy has been a struggle for political scientists and candidates for years, but is multi faceted and hard to tackle.

With the growth of social media and candidates opening up Snapchat or Instagram campaigns, information is in some ways, easier to access than ever before. Candidates are trying to combat voter apathy in their own way by reaching out specifically to the younger generation. But some youth voters, like senior Ryan Westoff, point out this can make young voters feel pandered to. “Some candidates have done a very good job of incorporating young voices into their campaigns and the issues that they care about, which is very important to me. Others seem like they are really just ‘pandering’ to young voters, trying to seem hip and relatable in hopes of getting a few extra votes but not really incorporating their voices into their larger coalition.” For Westhoff, the difference lies in actually follow through with promises, and making sure voters concerns are addressed and follow through is carried out. 

Others suggest that this pandering can actually help incorporate young voices into political campaigns. Senior Beau Anderson said, “I think that within the past few years we have seen a lot of candidates that appeal to the younger generations. These are candidates that are going to college campuses, knocking on college dorms and telling the younger generation exactly what they want to hear. I believe that it really just depends on the candidates at hand.” Anderson said by reaching out directly to students and being more involved, candidates can make college voters feel more a part of the process. It also allows for them to hear students ideas on what is important, but it comes down to the candidate if they will properly implement these ideas and represent the youth population.  

Another part of the problem for young voters is that political efficacy, or the belief that one can make a difference by expressing their opinion and acting politically, isn’t a value established in youth often until they reach voting age. But according to a report by Steve Hartsoe in Duke Today, an independent student newspaper, early education plays an incredibly crucial role in encouraging students to vote by informing them on the caucus process, how to register, and where to get reliable information.

Some political scientists also attribute low youth voter turnout to the lack of education on the caucus and voting process, making it approachable to students. This could partially be attributed to the increasingly lax requirement of civic courses in school, and their late start. Only a couple states in the United States require civics-education starting in middle school. On top of that, only nine states actually require a year of government or civic-education in high school. Making civic engagement  approachable and encouraged could help students be more involved. “A big part of why some people don’t get engaged is because they feel intimidated by the perceived complexity of the process,” says Westoff. “Doing more to help them feel empowered and informed would help more voices be heard.”

According to an article by Sydney Ember, a political reporter for the New York Times, one of the best ways to combat apathy is to make young voters aware of the power their vote has. Whatever your political ideology is, Anderson points out that, “This is a country in which you get to decide whom you want to represent you down at the State Capitol, the U.S. Capitol, in the White House and on the world stage. And remember that these are individuals that can affect your daily lives drastically.” 

Developing an individual opinion and stance on issues, and being able to elect representatives that best represent those ideas is one of the privileges of being a United States citizen, and not voicing the concerns of the younger generation can be detrimental. “I think we really just need to engage in more conversation about what’s really at stake for young people in politics,” Westoff said. “The result of an election can have dramatic impacts on your future, whether it’s in terms of affording things like healthcare or college, having basic representation in the workplace or ensuring a safe and healthy planet for generations to come.” 

While attention from candidates on younger voters voices and a more comprehensive educational system can help combat voter apathy, at the end of the day, as Anderson says,”it’s up to you to get involved and ensure that your voice is heard.” 


Get informed!

What to do before you caucus:

Must be 17 1/2, and 18 by election day (November 3, 2020)

Registered to vote with the party you intend to caucus for

Where to caucus:

Find your precinct by address

What to bring:

Valid driver’s license

General information on how to caucus:

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