Young people do not normally turn out to vote in large numbers. In the 2016 United States election, just 51% of eligible voters under age 40 voted, compared with 70% of those over age 55. However, this year young people have “turned out” to demonstrate about a range of issues. Will this zeal be reflected in the polls?
Speaking to The Washington Post, one pollster in the United States thinks so:
“This is a cohort that has been in many ways uniquely affected by covid. Many younger voters have had their entry into the labour market delayed. They’re facing all sorts of challenges.
…for many young voters, the protests that have swept the country might be their first serious experience of political activism and engagement.”
If they do turn out to vote it could make a real difference. In the United States, Millennials and Gen Z comprise 37% of eligible voters, about the same share of the electorate that baby boomers and pre-boomers make up, according to census data analyzed by the Brookings Institution.
Some are hopeful that this will be beneficial for “progressive” causes. However, as millennials age, will the old maxim hold true? : “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”
As people get older they indeed seem to become more conservative and less likely to want to tear down the status quo. You are also much more likely to both vote and be civically involved if you have children.
This indicates that our priorities and concerns change as we mature and gain responsibility for others. Parenthood is certainly a journey which forces you outside of your own needs and comforts in the service and care of others. It is likely people come to a greater appreciation of what is both precious and precarious about our shared ideals and culture.
In saying that, one of the most dramatic demographic changes over the last half-century has been the postponement of marriage and parenthood among successive generations of young adults. Many do not get married until they are in their thirties, and postpone children until their mid-to-late thirties or early forties. Research psychologist, Nicholas Zill, worries that:
“current trends toward delayed family formation and non-formation may well be having negative effects on the healthy functioning of many communities and of American democracy in general.”
It seems that delaying children has both implications for civic involvement and societal concern – including turning out to vote. Given having a family is such a huge growth experience in the life of a person, it makes sense that people now fully mature and settle into their own opinions, with the benefit of that full life experience, much later. This has implications for society as a whole.