By Kaitlyn Kelley
The Mahoning County area, and more specifically Youngstown, has always been a place that receives a large amount of attention from politicians, especially in the last two decades worth of presidential elections.
This is partially due to the amount of factory jobs being lost in the area, with presidential candidates seeking to promise careers to local out-of-work citizens. But another big aspect of this is due to the large population of Generation Z and Millenials thanks to Youngstown State University.
While the median age of the city as a whole is about 39 years old, according to the World Population Review, the university still draws in many presidential candidates. Donald Trump made a visit to Youngstown State during his campaign, as did Barack Obama in 2008 during his campaign; Presidential candidates crave the youth popularity vote.
Lately, there has been another noticeable drive from politicians, such as Bernie Sanders, to get more young adults to take their votes seriously. Votes count more than people realize, and as we saw in the 2016 presidential election, just because a candidate seems like they have a clear shot at winning, doesn’t mean you should skip out on turning in your vote in 2020.
“No one person’s vote is more important than someone else’s. Everyone’s vote is equally as important as it’s based on their own personal views and it represents their want to portray said view.” One anonymous surveyee out of one hundred others had this to say when asked if they believed that their vote was just as important as everyone else’s.
I surveyed one hundred anonymous people from a wide variety of age groups, from the 18-22 demographic, to the 46-60 demographic, and more. The results were surprising. Despite what the last surveyee had to say, there were many in that 18-22 age demographic who didn’t feel the same way.
“The electoral college screws everything up, and my vote doesn’t go anywhere,” one wrote. And while over 85% of people surveyed believed that their vote was just as important as anyone else’s, only 77% of people felt that their vote made a difference.
Furthermore, every single respondent who put that they believed their vote didn’t make a difference were also apart of the 28% that put “no” when asked if they believed they had been taught enough about the political climate to make an educated vote.
The 61+ demographic along with the 46-60 and 31-45 demographics all put that they believed they were taught enough, and they also all believed that their votes were important and made a difference.
Only the 18-22 demographic had such a large quantity of surveyees who believed they weren’t as important and weren’t educated enough.
So, what does this mean? Despite the increase in university students voting in the 2016 election versus the 2012 election, and despite 18-26 year olds making up 50% of the voting population in the 2016 election, so many students and young adults feel as though they don’t have a voice — that their vote has no impact.
Of that 18-26 year old demographic, only 19% of them turned a ballot in during the 2016 election. I believe that a big part of this has to do with the lack of education, encouragement and focus given to voting by professors at universities, and by teachers in high school while these students are still underaged.
The lack of time spent on emphasizing the importance of one vote leaves students to believe that their one puny vote will make no impact, or worse, not care at all. One Youngstown State student feels like the political climate is so confusing and conflicted, that she adamantly refuses to vote in elections.
“Every candidate has a flaw, and bringing up politics just makes people fight with each other,” she said. “I also don’t feel educated enough to make a proper vote, and wish I knew more.”
The excuse that some young adults will use is that they live somewhere where their vote doesn’t matter, such as a city like Youngstown. It’s a small, declining mid-sized city after all. But Paul Sracic, head of the political science department at Youngstown State University, doesn’t necessarily think that’s true.
He notes that Ohio is a swing state, so despite the low population, many politicians want residents of the state to vote and visit it frequently to assure that. Furthermore, with the way the electoral college is balanced, technically speaking one student’s vote in a place like Youngstown counts for more than one person’s vote in a heavily populated area such as New York City (which is not to say that a New York City vote isn’t valid or important, it simply isn’t as impactful.) “We want more educated voters, not just a big turnout,” he also points out.
Your vote matters; every vote matters. And it is a shame that so many people, especially young people, feel that they are so uneducated and feel that they don’t matter as much as every other voter.
The Harvard Kennedy School did a biannual youth poll that predicted that voter turnout from youths will be at an all time high in the upcoming 2020 election, assuming the midterms also increase.
I remain hopeful that this rings true. This generation has a lot of power to take control of the political climate and get things changed for the better. All there is left to do is get them educated and remind them that their votes do matter, and let them know that they have a voice.