Common Cause: The Young Vote is Alive and Well

I will be the first to admit when I’m wrong. Last month I was quoted saying the youth turnout wouldn’t be anywhere near the 52 percent millennial voter turnout of 2008. Suffice it to say, I was dead wrong...and I’m so happy that I was.  
Poll data from this past election indicates an increase in millennial voter turnout; even as articles leading up to election day speculated that voter apathy and the “enthusiasm gap” would surely yield a lower percentage of young people turning out.

The millennial voice has never been so loud. In 2008, the participation gap between millennial voters and baby boomers was the narrowest it had been in almost 40 years. Recent studies suggest that voter turnout for those aged 18-29 is reversing the low voter participation rates of associated with Generation X. The fact is, despite the barrage of information suggesting that young people aren’t voting, and despite voter suppression tactics targeting students, millennials are continuing an upward trend towards showing up at the polls.

Common Cause’s student fellows were on the ground this election season, answering election related questions and making sure their peers were prepared to vote on and before election day. Our students went beyond encouraging the vote, they worked tirelessly to protect it; with many working as poll monitors to ensure efforts to suppress voters were addressed quickly. This sort of involvement and civic participation can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of service and political action.

Though some would have you think that millennials are an uninformed, naïve, and emotional voting bloc, it seems that young adults, like most voters in other generations, are actually paying attention to the issues and voting in their best interest. The impact of the student debt crisis and high unemployment rates are of great importance to this generation, as their entire adult lives are hanging in the balance. Organizations and candidates have no choice but to begin addressing the needs of Generation Y.

In the new year, Common Cause will make every effort to connect our core campaigns to things important to students and young people. As our state and national leaders continue to work aggressively to advance reforms that mitigate the impact of Citizens United and ALEC and educate communities about money and politics, we will also be making an effort to connect issues like student debt and unemployment to money and politics. Young adults are feeling the impact that money in our political system has on their lives and Common Cause is one of few organizations that address this money and politics issue consistently and effectively.

These young voters are ready to get involved and want to be a part of real change. Common Cause’s campaigns and programs offer an effective strategy for action and engagement.

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