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Lane: The uninformed youth voter

BY JOE LANE | NOVEMBER 13, 2014 5:00 AM

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Last week, The Daily Iowan published an article explaining that Johnson County Democrats believe low voter turnout, especially from young voters, played a large role in the GOP swing during the midterm elections.

Furthermore, University of Iowa Associate Professor Douglas Jones, noted that “turnout numbers are dominated by the sense of excitement on election day.” He then went on to specify that while the Republican Party put forth revolutionary rhetoric, the Democrats had a message that they simply wanted to keep everything the same.

Of course, everything that this article had to say is pretty much true. Especially given that, according to Time, the voter turnout for these midterm elections was the worst since World War II, an abysmal 36.4 percent of eligible voters. The party that is better able to get voters excited about the future is more likely to get the votes. And when one party is presented with the opportunity to display a front of revolution and the other is trapped by their past, the winner starts to become more obvious.

But if this were the whole picture, then midterm elections would always result in (potentially) gridlocking party swings — yet they don’t.

Arguably the biggest question that faces many young voters today is in deciding which is better: an uneducated vote or a no-vote? When they don’t know about the candidates, or worse, don’t understand or even know the issues, young voters are quick to think that they would be better serving their country to just not vote at all. This is possibly the greatest flaw of my generation.

We’re in an age when nearly all of human knowledge is accessible at our finger tips; yet to so many young people that are able to vote, Justin Bieber’s latest screw up deserves their attention much more than a candidate’s — any candidate’s — stance on crucial issues such as health care and international policy.

The writing is on the wall; just look at the most followed Twitter accounts. Sure, President Obama is No. 3 with 49.5 million followers, but in order to get to the next Twitter account worth anything to the voting public, you must weed your way through the Kim Kardashian Wests and Taylor Swifts of the world before you finally make it to CNN Breaking News … at No. 26, with only a third as many followers as Katy Perry.

So it would appear that the onus falls not on the individual parties to get young voters excited but on the media to get people interested in the world around them and to foster passion in young voters to take part in their own future by voting in even seemingly lackluster midterm elections.

And while this latest election is now a thing of the past, the media have the responsibility to engage and educate the younger voting audience. It’s only a matter of time before the first politician announces their campaign for the 2016 presidential election and with it commences the next campaign season.

And although I would love to see candidates drop the attack ads in favor of a more educational campaign, I realize that there’s a better chance of Rob Ford getting his political career going again.

Which means that if we want to do better than 36.5 percent come 2016, then we, as a generation, have to pay more attention; but we’re going to need some help from the media, first.


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