In the early 2000s, Urban Outfitters began selling an ironic T-shirt with the slogan "Voting is for Old People." While this was clearly meant to be satirical, the reason the shirt exists is due to the overwhelming amount of apathy that has accumulated among the youth population since the end of the Vietnam War. To put it simply: they don't know the difference they can make.
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Since the first year that the legal voting age was lowered to 18, the youth population (defined here as voters between the ages of 18 and 24) has been steadily declining at the voting polls. In 1972, 50% of the youth participated in voting, while only 32% voted in the 1996 and 2000 elections. However, there was a rise in 2004 to 42% and this trend is expected to continue in the 2008 elections.
Many young individuals feel intimidated by politics and all things related to government. This can often be attributed to the fact that they are uninformed. There have been various periods in U.S. history when education takes the back seat to other issues, and when education is no longer a priority the youth suffers for it. If the education system does an inadequate job of informing the youth, then it is up to outreach organisations to do the job.
Young voters often do not believe that their vote can make a difference and that their lives would be exactly the same whether they showed up to the polling place or not. However, there are times of crisis such as the Vietnam War and the economic crash of 2008, where fresh ideas have to be seized in order to bring about change. In 2008, the presidential elections could have a long-term impact on global warming, reproductive rights and civil liberties (especially concerning homosexuals).
A common phrase that is often heard among the youth is "but it's just one vote." Oftentimes they will make the excuse that they're not in a swing state. What they don't realise is that there are literally millions out there just like them that are saying the same exact thing. If each individual with this attitude became proactive, many changes would doubtlessly occur.
There are countless organisations out there that are actively working to mobilise and educate the youth voters. Rock the Vote is one of the most well-known, and is effective because it is both hip and empowering. There are also countless performers and musicians, such as Jack Johnson, who set up booths where concertgoers can register. Sheryl Crow is another musician who has held a voter registration drive. When apathy sets in, popular music and culture is a great way to reach out to the youth.
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