Back in March, after the March for Our Lives school walkout demonstrations that spread throughout the country, I wrote a brief column explaining how these young demonstrators, despite their fervor and passions regarding the issue of gun control, are the most apathetic age group when it comes to American politics. After its publication, dissenters of this reasonable opinion swiftly ensued, with numerous Tucsonans suggesting that I was proffering a diatribe against these concerted protesters.
“How could you attack the children like this?” one reader asked. “The audacity of you to deprive the teenagers of their activism was truly disgraceful,” another said. “Your comment regarding student protesters was appalling,” a third asserted.
To every single one of these dissenting comments that I received, I responded in uniform fashion by stating that the reason I had the gall to put forth this sensible opinion is because I can discern long-established trends and observations.
Young Americans, on average, are not only less politically knowledgeable and aware, but when it comes to electoral politics are also the least likely group to vote.
To expound on my former claim, in 2016, the American National Election Studies — an academic organization that administers national voting surveys — conducted a quadrennial survey, asking 10 factual political questions to a representative sample of the American public. What it revealed, as one would expect, is that older Americans answered more questions correctly than younger Americans. The group of 45- to 64-year-olds answered, on average, 60 percent of the questions correctly, while younger Americans, 18- to 29-year-olds, answered, on average, 47 percent correctly.
What the survey also uncovered was how news was consumed among various age groups during presidential elections. In 2012, only 13 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds watched TV to follow political campaigns, as opposed to 26 percent among 45- to 64-year-olds; senior citizens 65 and over had the highest rate at 41 percent.
With regard to my latter claim, young voter-turnout rates have been historically, and consistently, low ever since the ratification of the 26th Amendment in 1971, effectively lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. In 2014, during the last midterm election, the national turnout rate among 18- to 24-year-olds was a feeble 17 percent, compared to the highest turnout rate of 59 percent among 65- to 74-year-olds. In 2010, the midterm before that, 18- to 24-year-olds had another scanty turnout rate at 21 percent, compared to 62 percent among 65- to 74-year-olds.
What is patently clear is that, on average, young Americans are less politically knowledgeable and aware, and are more apathetic when it comes to electoral politics, demonstrating that it was not my goal to denigrate the activism of young citizens, but to merely state that perhaps we are overemphasizing their political proficiencies.
With that in mind, as I’m sure many dissenting Arizonans will continue to find this opinion to be insolent and unpalatable, here is my challenge to them: Prove me wrong this November.
The turnout rate for 18- to 24-year-olds during the 2014 midterm election in Arizona was 15 percent; in 2010, it was 27 percent. I would imagine that 2018 is ripe for a high young-voter turnout rate of at least 30 percent, considering we are living in the midst of the Trump presidency and the March for Our Lives, #RedForEd and #MeToo movements. It indisputably could not be a better year to finally mobilize the youth in markedly consequential numbers.
With that said, I implore all young Arizonan voters to please turn out this midterm election and prove me wrong. I would earnestly welcome it.