Stop Saying that Young People aren’t Politically Active

In lieu of the recent effort to get young people to vote in the midterm election, I’m still unsettled by older generations’ view of young people’s political activism. If anything, young people have been extremely politically active among their peers with various Snapchat stories and Facebook posts encouraging their friends to go out and vote. But are the majority of young people still politically inactive or is that just a perception left over from the 2016 election?

In one of my communications classes, we were talking about the influence of social media in political campaigns and the particular article we were reading analyzed the influence of social media on young people during the 2010 midterm election. In response to this notion, my professor said something that, quite simply, made me mad.

“I know that one third of you won’t even go out and vote.”

There are so many parts of this statement that made me so mad. My professor based this statistic on an estimated voter turnout that of course hadn’t even happened yet and he furthermore said “I know that one third of you…”

I’m going to focus on what my professor felt he “knew."

Yet again, my class was subjected to the usual bashing of millennials, suggesting that they are lazy and entitled. To which I would like to point out that all or half the class are not even considered millennials (It depends on when you define the beginning of the millennial generation. I’ve always heard that anyone born after 1995 is Generation Z, but to each their own). It’s not so much this contempt for “millennials”, but young people in general. I constantly hear professors make comments about “millennials” usually when referring to technology or politics. These comments are rarely flattering. “Millennials” seem to frequently get pinned as some “other being” in the mix of all the generations, looked down on for their seemingly disappointing contribution to society.

It’s true in 2016, only 46.1% of people ages 18-29 voted in the 2016 presidential election, but that was two years ago. That was a moment in time that has given young people a poor reputation ever since. I think there are many young people who see this bad reputation as a lesson learned. Maybe more young adults will vote in order to turn around this notion that we are not politically active. Besides, there are now new voters who have finally reached the age 18 and are ready to vote.

I wasn’t even old enough to vote in the 2016 election. And yes, I voted in the midterm election.

But back to this notion that young people are not politically active. In 2017 over 100,000 people participated in the Women’s March on Washington. According to the Washington Post, it was the largest single-day demonstration in recorded U.S. history.

This was a day involving women of all ages. It’s a clear statement, that no matter your age, there is still a desire to be politically active.

Consider the #MeToo movement. This was driven by social media and was bound to resonate with young people using any form for social media. As political movements enter the world of social media, it’s impossible to deny that young people are politically active.

For some, the 2016 election inspired their political activism. We should see this as hope for the future that young people will continue to be politically active instead of choosing to pigeonhole young people into being lazy or simply not caring.

From what I’ve seen from my peers, we do care. We make the effort to get out and vote and encourage others to vote. I’m especially proud of the young women of Her Campus and their ability to stand up for their rights and do what they believe is necessary to make a difference.

So, here’s what I know: Young people are in fact politically active. Moreover, they understand their civic duty to create a better future for their generation. We are more than we are given credit for.