By BRIAN NAZZARO
Taylor Hassa is a 19 year old sophomore at Ramapo College and she doesn’t vote. She isn’t involved politically and she is part of a growing number of people who simply don’t vote.
“I don’t think I’m informed enough to really make decisions when it comes to politics because I don’t follow it,” says Hassa. “I just usually take in my parents opinions, and they vote republican.”
In the 2012 presidential election the voter turnout rate was 58.7 percent of the eligible voter population according to George Mason University. New Jersey was slightly higher than the national average with only 62 percent of the eligible population coming out to vote.
The apathy of the younger generation has never been higher. The voter turnouts are at an all time low across all ages but the younger voters seem to show the lowest interest in voting. The younger generation seems to have a lethargic attitude about it. Younger people are split down the middle, many being nonchalant about politics and the others being quite opinionated and involved.
Along with not voting, the registered voter list among young people is in decline as well as the amount of young people who pay attention to election and political coverage, according to the Pew Research Center.
Registration among young voters is in decline. Since its peak of 61 percent in the 2008 elections, voters aged 18-29 only have 50 percent of their demographic registered to vote as of 2012.
Some voters lack of interest stems from their upbringing. Many people will be apathetic about voting and politics in general if they are raised around that thought process, with the parents being uninterested in politics, according to a study done by Tufts University.
The technology that was praised for Obama’s success in 2008 could have indirectly been his downfall in 2012. He still won the election, but by a smaller margin and with less support from the younger generation.
“We discuss this in my political science classes a lot,” says Raizza Cui, a Senior and political science major at Rutgers University. “The American people are fickle, especially the young people, technology has seemed to damage their attention spans and it seems like the average youth gets caught up in something great but then is distracted by the Kardashians. Some young people manage to stay very well informed and politically active but some just get sidetracked because they are constantly bombarded with media. Look at that big political thing with Kony, that hype lasted a few week but I bet if I walk around this campus now most people won’t know who I’m talking about.”
College students and young graduates alike have become more complacent with the political process compared to their counterparts of the ‘60s and ‘80s. Gone are the days when mass protests sparked political change and people took pride in the sense of power they got from voting.
“Waste of energy”
“I think years ago if you wanted to be heard you could be heard and the government might have listened, now I think that it’s just become a waste of energy, the government doesn’t listen and people just don’t care anymore,” says Luis Gerena, 23, NJ resident. “If you look at how Europe works, when the people want something there they get out and vote on referendums and protest, hell they wanted to raise the retirement age in France by two years and the people damn near burned down half of Paris.”
New Jersey is a diverse state with only 41 percent being male over the age of 65, meaning white males over the age of 65 are an even smaller portion of our state’s population according to the U.S. Census. That means a majority of people living in New Jersey are not the status quo of older white men.
The minorities of women, African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and others are now collectively the majority. With such a large and growing quantity of people we must look at why the voter turnout is so low.
Some attribute the low young-voter turnout to a broken system where their votes don’t really matter, so young people really only vote if it is at their convenience.
“I just feel like in the long run most of those people are just in politics for themselves,” says Elizabeth Nardone, 21, college student in Wilkes, Pa. “I voted in the last election because of the hype and really I just jumped on the bandwagon of being able to say I voted for America’s first black president the second time he ran.”
Evan Juhls is a 22 year old who has recently moved back to New Jersey from Florida. He works full time and has been ever since he graduated high school. Not being a student he bases his political opinion on things that some students don’t take into account.
“When and if I vote it’s usually for people who will lower my income taxes and property taxes,” says Juhls. “I don’t really concern myself with topics such as education and the big issue with student loans seeing as I don’t have any and I don’t have children I need to put through school.”
AUDIO GALLERY: Listen to different perspectives on youth voters
Some students however are feeling the need to make their mark on the political stage. They feel the need to keep stride with America’s politicians and keep current with our national and local agendas.
Valerie Torrizo is a broadcast journalism major at Ramapo college and she keeps herself occupied and constantly involved in media and politics. She has interned at many different media outlets and is a self described news junkie.
“A good portion of people our age don’t vote because they feel they don’t have time, their vote won’t matter, they could care less about politics, or simply are too busy being hungover in their dorm rooms from binge drinking the night before,” says Torrizo. “Let’s be real. As much as MTV or whoever this year will try push the vote from young Americans, it won’t happen. And that’s mainly due to the main reason that they don’t think their vote will matter. When it comes down to it will one vote create such a difference? Most young Americans don’t think so.”
She prides herself on her multiple internships at companies such as NBC, My9, and MSNBC. The internships have always been geared toward politics and breaking news, allowing her maximize her political clout and knowledge.
Torrizo has worked with several of the big names in political television, mostly the left, and has attained an understanding as to how the political system works and how media and politics now go hand in hand since the technological revolution that started back in the ‘80s and continues to grow around us.
As the divide among the younger generation becomes more evident it seems to be increasingly necessary for the younger generation to get involved in politics. If the generation who is the future of the nation completely loses faith in it’s political process, there won’t be a stable political system to run the country.
Ramapo has several clubs and organizations on campus, such as the Democratic and Republican clubs and Student Government Organization. All of these clubs offer ways for students to be political in some way and are usually open for new members. They usually attend all the club fairs and are able to be contacted through Ramapo’s Orgsync.
“Why not vote? From the beginning of elementary schooling we are taught about the struggles that certain people went through to earn the right to vote,” says Torrizo. “People literally died trying to fight for the right to vote. I find it kind of appalling that people who don’t vote because they simply don’t want to is foolish.”