Why aren’t young people voting? According to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, voters ages 18-24 were the smallest age group to turn out on election day this year. Were we exhausted by the long and divisive campaign season? Were we busy with other obligations such as school or work? Or were we so fed up with the political system that we refused to participate? In all likelihood, it’s probably all three.
A recent survey of the UW–Stout student body conducted by Stoutonia found that a majority of respondents claimed they were not satisfied with our current system of government. Why then, if so many individuals are unhappy, aren’t we voting? Well, according to the same survey, nearly half of all students agreed that voting was not the most effective way to engage with our government. The distance between elected officials and the populations they govern is widening, and we’re taking notice. Stout students are clearly dissatisfied. “Something needs to change,” wrote one respondent, “Abolish the electoral college!” said another.
The national ideological divide between Liberals and Conservatives is also apparent in the attitudes of students surveyed. Just under half said they were “very dissatisfied” with the results of the election, while 25% said they were “very satisfied.” The majority also responded that they were satisfied with the amount of political discussion on campus. At Stout, as is the case throughout the country, there seems to be little middle ground.
Perhaps the most telling statistic from the survey is the percentage of individuals that didn’t respond – 90%. The motives behind such a poor response rate are likely the same as those that compelled young people to sit out on election day. For whatever reason, young adults, Stout students included, aren’t participating. Whether it’s voter turnout or survey respondents, the result of not participating is the same: we aren’t heard. Could it be that we just don’t care?
To claim that Stout students are apathetic would be inaccurate. There are numerous student organizations working tirelessly to bring change to campus. Ultimately, the largest divide at Stout is between those who act and those who don’t. Only time will tell what effects such lopsided representation will have on our campus and the nation.