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Essay/Term paper: The apathy of generation x

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Humanities Essays

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For the past 25 years it has been wondered why the young people of
America have shared the same apathetic attitude
towards politics as the older generation of Americans. Indeed, the
issues concerning young voters are just as important as those
concerning older voters. Why the newest voters choose to abstain their
right has long been studied. While it has been proven
that the vote of young people can make or a break an election, most
candidates are reluctant to relate themselves to young
people. When that Tuesday in November comes, young people choose not be
heard, assuring themselves future neglect by the
part of elected officials.
There are reasons that young people do not vote, or get involved in
political actions. They range from apathy to just plain
not having enough time. One of the larger reasons is that most
candidates are much older then those 18-25. This would put the
generation gap in between candidates and the youthful voters. A 19 year
old Trinity College student remarks about Bob Dole, I
think he is making himself look older by speaking about certain issues
we (young people) can not relate to. When asked to give
an example the student stated, "he made a reference to World War I, I
thought he was going to say he fought in that one too!"
(www.mtv.com/chooseorlose). While Bob Dole is a isolated instance, many
youthful voters feel that there is a ever growing
distance between them and the older generations. Another reason that
young people are turning away is lack of education
towards politics. While this could be said for any age group, it seems
to be more prevalent in younger people. The lifestyle of
younger people does not allow for a everyday exposure to politics as
those of a older generation. Thomas Banks, a 19 year
old student, when asked why he was not watching the 1992 Presidential
Debates responded, "I guess because I don't really
see what's going on at college. I feel pretty isolated. It doesn't seem
as important to me as studying. I guess". Although not in a
career yet, the life of a student is proving to be just as busy as those
in the older generations. People in the full time labor are
not the only ones who can use a hassle-full life as an excuse not to get
involved. There is another major reason that young
people feel isolated and set apart from the political world. For those
who take the time to educate themselves, and to
participate in what activities they can; they soon find that the major
candidates have paid little, if any attention to the issues that
effect young people the most. Chris Weinkopf, associate editor of
National Review, when speaking about how Bill Clinton and
Bob Dole are talking to young voters said, "I think both of them are
really just paying lip service to young people in the way
they address issues" (www.mtv.com/issues.html).
When young voters make themselves heard in an election, they can
turn the outcome like no other age group can. Even
with minimal turn-out on the part of 18-25 year olds. Elections have
been won or lost because of who young people do or do
not support. In 1992, 50% of registered voters under the age of 30
turned out to vote. In that election, Bill Clinton received
50% of the under 30 vote (Bush received 30%, Perot 20%). Clintons 20%
margin of victory in the young people vote was his
largest in any age group and may have very well put him in the White
House. Since John Andersons independent run at the
White House in 1980, young people have been the strongest supporters for
those outside the two party system. Now in 1996,
even though Ross Perot has a dismal 5% overall, his support amongst the
younger voters is in the double digits.
There are many things that will make young people get involved. The
biggest thing that gets the attention of youthful
voters is the same thing that gets the attention of older voters, money.
When the financial status of a young person is threatened,
they are more likely to get involved in political activities. Issues
such as student loans, tax cuts, minimum wage and Pell Grant
minimums are issues that turn the heads of younger voters. Other issues
that effect young people and make them get involved
include birth control, use of tobacco products and A.I.D.S. research to
name a few more. In 1991, Montanas state Legislature
enacted a unique referendum. It allowed the states high school students
to determine whether or not tobacco products should
be sold to young people. In the turnout, a whopping 51,233 students (76%
of those enrolled), turned out to be heard.
Therefore there is no doubt that given the opportunity to have them
selves heard will help get young people to the voting
both. However, that opportunity is rarely there for those among younger
voters. While his opponent hardly ever spoke about
his views concerning those younger Americans, Bill Clinton was making
speeches at colleges and attacking Bob Doles ideas on
Pell Grants and student loans (www.mtv.com/chooseorloose). Thus the
Presidents support amongst young people was a
significant percentage higher then Doles. With very little extra work
Clinton had given young people the attention they craved.
Therefore when Election Day rolled around Clinton again had his young
support. When asked why he voted for Clinton,
student Mark Whitmore replied Clinton is the only one who would even
give us the time of day. He only gave us a little, but it
was better then the nothing Bob Dole gave us." Therefore only showing
meager support for the causes of the younger
generation of voters Clinton was able to win the support of a strong
demographic group, even over rival Ross Perot.
Now the question will be asked that if only menial support needs to
be showed to young people to get them out to the
voting booths, is that that all they will ever be showed by the
candidates? When asked about this new question student, and
mother of one child Rebecca Smitten said "its kind of a double-edged
sword. I dont want to show support for someone whose
has mentioned little about my issues, but I dont want to not show any
support at all either". However, there is hope that this
trend will soon take a up-swing in favor of the young voters. While
during the 96 election young voters had scant attention paid
to them, that the elections to come in the future will have more for
young people to work with. The fact that young people are
showing up to the polls and making a difference in the out-come of races
is giving them leverage for the future. Future
candidates will appeal to new voters in more then one way however. For
one example, candidates in the future will be closer to
the age of young people. As young people grow out and into jobs they
will have more financial status to be threatened. Lastly,
with the new found power, young people may be able to demand attention.
However, the generations before these voters also
had all these advantages and yet they still became the tame,
over-apathetic voters of today. So what is working for todays
young people that was not for the generations before? One difference is
the new found power of interest groups. Interest
groups that have strong youth support include the Sierra Club, and
S.A.D.D. While these groups may not have the budgets of
others such as the N.R.A.; they do have the young vote and a appeal to
young people who are someday going to grow into the
work-force. This leaves more potential then ever before for young people
to make a permanent mark in the political world and
possibly pave the way for future young voters to have their issues heard
as well.
These are just the tip of the iceberg as far as the future of young
voters. As far as election and political activities to come,
no one knows. There is more optimism then ever before, but will it be
enough to turn the heads of candidates? There is at least
a chance in that young people will make a difference in the mere fact
that they have the numbers to do so. When and if all these
numbers of young voters and activists turn out has been seen and
hopefully will continue to do so. Then maybe the apathetic
letter "X" that labels them can be forever removed. 

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