In the third installment of our series on youth political participation, we are turning to one question that NPR recently asked: why does Bernie Sanders resonate so well with young voters? It is a question that has received a lot of attention lately, from both Republican and Democrats. The Washington Post article “Why millenials love Bernie Sanders and why that may not be enough” points to a number of reasons why the oldest candidate in the race appeals so well to the youngest voters. According the article, young people feel inspired by his messaging, drawn to his “idealism and authenticity – and his unvarnished take on their everyday realities.” As a result, the number of youth that support Bernie Sanders far surpasses the support received by any other candidate, in either party.
Cecilia Cherubini, a college student, notes “it’s great to have someone from another generation seeing what we’re seeing.” He relates to young people and he speaks about the issues that young voters care about: the cost of a college education, finding a job after graduation, the economy… In these messages young voters see passion and hope.
Will Bernie Sanders harness the power of young voters and win the election? Will other candidates be able to make themselves more attractive to young voters? What will the outcome be? Only time will tell…
Until then, let’s look at our next two essay contest winners and their thoughts on increasing political participation by youth.
Crystal Huang, Oakland High School
In her essay, Crystal touches upon one of the reasons Bernie Sanders has been cited as so successful among young voters – he talks about the issues they care about. As Crystal notes, “if less campaigns are willing to target the youth, [they] will not only be less informed…but will feel campaigns do not affect them, making them less likely to vote.” She believes a key way to connect with young voters is through social media. By using social media, candidates will not only encourage young voter participation, but will actually help inform young people on the issues. She cites a Nature journal article about the influence of Facebook on voting patterns to support her point. The study suggested “certain messages promoted by friends ‘increased turnout directly by 60,000 voters and indirectly through social contagion by another 280,000 voters, for a total of 340,000 additional votes.'” Clearly social media can be a powerful tool, and Crystal believes it is the best solution to low turnout rates of youth across the nation.
Katie La Costa, Academy of Our Lady of Peace
In recent years, many legislative efforts have been undertaken to make the process of voting easier and more convenient. For Katie, procedural changes do not solve the root of the problem. As she eloquently states, “While there are many responsible young people who are deeply invested in the values of this country, many millenials have not been taught the importance of participating in their government by the simple, yet irreplaceable act of voting.” Education begins at school, as she notes, and our classes should convey the important role voting plays in making our government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” But for her, better education isn’t just limited to schools. She also emphasizes the need for media reform in reporting on the elections. When it comes to the candidates, she thinks the media highlights too much negativity, including scandals, lies and mistakes. She wants to see greater emphasis on their viewpoints, their policies, and what they stand for. According to Katie, “Reforming the media would give young people more hope in their leaders and more pride in their country.”