Martin Wattenberg’s Is Voting for Young People is an intriguing book that examines the issue of American youths’ absence in politics and the consequences of their ignorance. Is Voting for Young People reviews the low turn-out rate and political apathy of people below 30. Wattenberg highlights that politics turned into a topic appealing to the elderly and that the currently favored parties would be different if younger generations were interested in politics. Is Voting for Young People suggest that many young adults are uninformed about politics and do not participate in elections, emphasizing the need to introduce compulsory voting?
Is Voting for Young People argue about youngsters’ low political participation and its consequences? Wattenberg first criticizes how uninformed youth is about politics, analyzing trends in reading newspapers and watching TV news. He claims that newspaper is the primary source of political information, but young adults do not seem interested in reading them. The survey conducted in 2012 revealed that only 7 percent of respondents regularly read online newspapers (Wattenberg 41). As for TV news, the average age of the audience was from 60 to 65 (Wattenberg 43). These findings prove how uninformed the young generation is about politics. Low interest in reading and watching political news correlates with political participation trends among citizens below 30, as a significant part seem not to be bothered by politics.
The author explains that youngsters’ lack of knowledge and interest in the subject impacts the elections’ participation rate. Young people, who do not read or watch the news, are not familiar with candidates and their agenda and are likely to wonder why they need to vote in the first place (Wattenberg 97). Therefore, it is no wonder that young adults do not participate in elections, as they barely hold any information about political events and have no motivation to vote.
Wattenberg explores the consequences of the age gap in voting rates and low political knowledgeability. The adverse effects include low electoral participation and the current Left-Right positioning in the States. The young generation that does not consider participating in elections as their civic duty puts the country at a high risk of losing the vast majority of its voters. According to a CIRCLE survey conducted among Americans aged 15 to 25, “34 percent responded that voting was a choice and another 31 percent called it a right” (Wattenberg 125). While more than half of the youngsters do not consider voting a civic responsibility or value it, one can reasonably assume they will not regularly vote in the future. The current young adults’ low turn-out percentages could remain at that rate forever since they have a significantly weaker civic duty sense.
Another issue is that non-voting youth does not reflect their beliefs and desires of the country’s future, affecting the political landscape in the government. Young generations tend to support democratic and liberal ideologies (Wattenberg 141). However, their position is often dismissed as they choose to ignore elections. The book suggests that the current structure of the government and a ruling party could be different if young people voted more, highlighting the significance of their votes.
Opinion on Wattenberg’s Argument
I fully agree with Wattenberg’s position regarding youngsters’ ignorance of politics and its detrimental consequences. I personally know many people below 30 who have never voted in their lives. They believe their one vote will not affect anything and prefer skipping elections. Young adults often do not understand the need to vote and the importance of reflecting on their position. As Wattenberg argues, there could be changes in the current ruling parties or their members if youngsters voted more because they have different preferences from senior voters. Unfortunately, politics is getting less interesting for them, provoking questions about the future of the United States with increasingly ignorant youth. One may wonder what the election process will look like in 50 years if barely anyone comes to vote. The next generations are in danger of losing many voters. I assume that it may cause havoc in the country’s government and could be used to promote someone’s candidacy for personal gain.
Meanwhile, some young adults may vote just for the sake of voting. In the book, Wattenberg proves that many do not read political newspapers, and most TV news viewers are elderly. I believe that people who vote without knowing anything about candidates pose more danger for the future of the United States than those who do not vote at all. Getting familiar with the context of elections and candidates’ agendas is crucial to make choices most beneficial for the country.
The main counterargument to Wattenberg’s claim is that youngsters participate in politics by engaging in non-electoral activities. The author agrees that young adults have expressed their positions by “contacting public officials, working on community problems, protesting, boycotting, and signing petitions” (165). However, there is no evidence that a large proportion of youth participates in these forms of political initiatives. I partially agree with the counterargument that many youngsters express active political positions. However, elections are still one of the most basic forms of showing one’s engagement in politics, and the statistics prove there is a significant shortage of young voters in this regard.
Wattenberg’s Suggestion to Address the Issue
Is Voting for Young People concludes that imposing mandatory voting is the only way to motivate youth to participate in the elections? Even though this suggestion may seem autocratic, I agree that the government should mandate young people to vote. Adopting compulsory voting regulations is the only measure that will motivate everyone under 30 to vote. Other possible steps to address the issue, such as enhancing political education, are not as practical because they only affect those willing to get educated and disregard socioeconomic disparities in accessing this education (Wattenberg 215). I believe civic education programs could increase turn-out rates, but the change would not be considerable. Mandating citizens to participate in elections could be perceived as an extreme measure. However, it is crucial to implement it as the electoral participation of young people is decreasing, which could lead to detrimental consequences in the future. Therefore, I agree with Wattenberg’s conclusion to impose mandatory voting.
In Is Voting for Young People, Wattenberg argues that the youth is poorly informed about politics and is not interested in reading political news or watching political TV programs. He supports these claims by presenting statistics about the audience of political news programs and the survey results, revealing that over 50% of young people do not value voting (125). Wattenberg explains that the electoral participation rate is low due to youngsters’ indifference to politics, suggesting that it leads to a decreasing number of politically active citizens and affects the choice of ruling parties. I agree with the author’s ideas on this subject, as youth do not tend to engage in politics nowadays. Some might argue that they express active political positions by protesting and signing petitions. Nonetheless, I still believe those actions are not enough as they do not affect the country’s political state as much as elections do. Is Voting for Young People conclude that the government should consider making voting compulsory, as it is significant to attract more voters, and it is effective to do it through laws and regulations?
Wattenberg, Martin. Is Voting for Young People? Routledge, 2020.