Why do 18-24-year-olds vote so infrequently?

Anonymous asked this question on 5/11/2000:

Why is the rate of turnout among 18-24 years old lower than that of any other age group in the population?

JesseGordon gave this response on 5/11/2000:

If anyone KNEW the answer to this question, they would be the most sought-after political consultant in the country, because reaching the 18-24-year-old electorate could change the outcome of just about any election! But I'll give it a shot....

First, politicians aren't aged 18-24, and hence they relate better to older people. That includes not only the political concerns of 18-24 year-olds, but also the way to communicate with them (i.e., 18-24 y.o. culture). Jesse Ventura is often credited with winning the Minnesota governorship because he got the 18-24-y-o vote by focusing his campaign on the Internet (and because he was a wrestling hero, with a heavily 18-24-y-o audience).

Second, young people are often more concerned with other pursuits. Voting is associated with caring about your community, building a future for your family, etc.; those things don't matter so much when you're young. I was 18-24 once, and while I voted all the time (because I'm a "wonk"), I certainly care more about local political issues now that I live permanently in one place, have children attending schools, etc.

Third, there's an element of "self-perpetuation" involved. Politicians know that 18-24-y-o's don't vote much, so they don't focus their policy choices on that age group's needs. And because they don't focus on those needs, that age group doesn't benefit from involvement in politics, and hence don't vote much. And the cycle continues indefinitely. Until someone like Jesse Ventura comes along, and appeals to young people, and maybe the cycle will be broken....

A viewer asked this question on 8/1/2000:

I was curious to know which age group is statistically the most politically active. I was trying to make a case that college students fall into that category but I could be wrong. Please let me know. Thank you.

stevehaddock gave this response on 8/1/2000:

While a lot of students are active in politics, if you measure this by which age group is more likely to vote, write their representative, or even run for office, that title belongs to seniors - those over 65. Students seem more active because they are more vocal but, truth be known, most of them don't get involved in politics, don't join political movements, and many don't even bother registering. However, seniors are well organized, have by far the highest percentage of voting, get involved with party politics or elections. This is why the U.S. government spends about $2.00 on every person over 65 for every $1.00 it spends on every person under 18.

Return to index