Saturday, February 28, 2015

Young voters, political participation, and the 2016 election

This is a work in progress, and I am posting it in the hope that people will read it and react to it. Tell me where I’m right, and tell me where I’m wrong or missing something.
I teach Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and in years past I taught at a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania and a large state university in California. Among other courses, I teach big introductory classes in American Government that are full of first and second year students, so I have been talking with a lot of young people about politics for 25 years. As a political scientist, I have also been reading what little is available in our literature about their attitudes toward politics and their political participation.  Add to that the fact that I have three children between the ages of 17 and 23, all of whom are interested in politics, and I’d say I have a solid base to offer some opinions on young people and political participation.
 Here is what I know about how the 18-29 demographic views political participation. I think it means that Hillary Clinton and the Democrats are in trouble in 2016 unless they make some changes in their approach to young people. I am intentionally oversimplifying here and overstating the differences between young and older people in order to sharpen the contrast.  If I seem to be saying “all,” please understand that I mean a disproportionate amount. But as a practical matter these differences are determinative of election outcomes, and these are reasons why young people must be appealed to differently or they will not vote.
How are young voters different than older voters?