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The Apathy Of Generation X Essay, Research Paper

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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