Politics on campus: Why aren’t millennials voting?

In the 2012 presidential election, 45 percent of eligible voters ages 18- to 29-years-old actually voted, the lowest voter turnout rate out of all 30 groups tracked by the U.S. Census Current Population Survey.

The 2012 election also had the lowest turnout among millennials of any presidential election since 2002. According to the census survey, the 18- to 29-year-old demographic has only had a better than 50 percent turnout once, which came in 2008.

meta-chartThe common explanation for young people’s disinterest is because all of the changes in their lives lead to a lack of time, said John Gruhl, a political science professor at UNL since 1976.

Sophomore political science major Jake Lambert agrees. 

“People our age don’t want to spend the time to stay politically informed,” said Lambert, who, unlike many of his peers, spends lots of time in the political realm. He’s volunteered on campaigns for 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and 2014 U.S. Senate candidate Dave Domina.

Lambert’s interest in politics began because of an interest in geography, which led to an interest in foreign relations, which piqued his interest in American politics.

“The decisions that are made in America impact not only us but our relations with other countries and the whole world,” Lambert said

It’s important to be involved, Lambert said, because many people do not realize how directly they’re affected by what happens in Congress and even in their state legislature.

Junior Cody Heins said young people don’t know where to go for information because there is so much of it out there.

“Honestly, I just don’t think they (fellow millennials) have any guidance of what is real and what is fake,” he said.

Heins, who interned with Nebraska Republican Sen. Deb Fischer’s state office last summer, said he became involved with politics by reading current events. As time went on, Heins realized that everything going on the in the United States affects not just him, but those around him.

“I think millennials being involved in politics is important,” he said. “It’s the future.”

Lack of Involvement 

Although Lambert and Heins are both politically active college students, they don’t fit the bill of a young person who is active in politics.

When they (young people) do get involved, it’s more likely to be when an exciting candidate comes along — Obama or Sanders rather than Hillary,” Gruhl said.

Young people have proved their excitement for the senator from Vermont. As of March 17, Bernie Sanders had received more primary votes from 18- to 29-year-olds than Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton combined.

Despite the interest in Sanders, people under 30 still made up less than 20 percent of the Democratic voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, even though they represent 31 percent of the population.meta-chart-2

“We’re starting to see political changes,” Heins said. “But the young people in our generation aren’t involving with the changing politics. If they don’t stay involved in politics, I honestly think our generation will be lost.”

Lambert acknowledges that starting out in politics can be difficult. He used the words “dividing,” “intimidating” and “complex” to describe getting involved with the political process, but he said it’s not as difficult as people think.

“It’s really easy to find things you want to volunteer for,” he said. “Whether it be campaigns or government organizations or non-profit organizations that are somehow connected to politics.”

Lambert recommends finding something you’re passionate about it and going from there.

But it is hard to know what you are passionate about without knowing what is going on, which is why Lambert and Heins both said the most important thing to do is read and understand current events.

“Actually reading about something and certain topics will definitely help,” Heins said. “I think young people just need to know the facts and not judge political issues only off what they see on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.”

Video: Lambert and Heins discuss their political backgrounds and ideologies. 


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