Democracy is an essential, even the most important, aspect of any existing nation. In this kind of government, people enjoy benefits that otherwise would not be present if a different type of ruling prevails. However, democracy comes with responsibilities and duties that must be satisfied in order for it to continue. All citizens should perform their part in helping the government, even the youth. Young adults or those belonging to the 18-24 age brackets in America have been the subject of several studies.
Analysis of their voting behavior, perception of government and politics has been performed in order to glean ideas on the effects they may have on the society. On a greater note, do these American youths even know their duties as citizens? John J. Patrick in his article, Teaching the Responsibilities of Citizenship, contends that “voluntary service to the community, participation in the political system, acquisition of knowledge about civic life, and public commitment to the values of constitutional democracy are the responsibilities of citizenship” that make a democracy thrive (John Patrick).
Young Americans are less likely to participate in political activities when they feel that it has no relevance to them or does not somehow affect their lives. They are more inclined to do volunteer works in civic organizations because they feel that they have the ability to help and make some difference in the lives of others (Kellie Lammie). “Political activities are defined as activities that are intended to influence, either directly or indirectly, government action while volunteer activities are those activities that do not have the intention of influencing the government” (Kellie Lammie).
According to U. S. Census Bureau figures, turnout among young adults was 50, 42, 40, 41, 34, 32, and 31, percent, respectively, in the eight elections between 1972 and 2000 (qtd. Kellie Lammie). It shows that there has been a decline in the turn-out of voters coming from the younger generation. These findings seem to support the opinion that American youths are indifferent; that they would rather entertain themselves and do inconsequential things than participate in the more important issues that the older generation takes part in.
Therefore, in view of the above premises, can we expect that they would be able to fulfill their duties as citizens of a democratic society? Will the willingness to do their civic duties emanate? What solutions can be presented in order to address these problems? Voting, one of the civic rights of an individual in a democratic society is considered to be a form of political participation. By means of voting, people can convey their ideas on how their government is to be run, depending on the political agenda of their chosen candidates.
As has been analyzed based on the research conducted, there are several reasons that hinder the young people of today from exercising this right, namely: 1) the decline in the parental role modeling for voting behavior; 2) disappearance of civic education from schools; 3) difficulty to navigate the voting process; and 4) the decision of some young people to turn their backs on the electoral process (A Guide to Reaching Young Voters). Based on IOP research, most of today’s young voters cannot be defined by traditional political labels.
They fall into either one of these four political personality profiles: 1) Traditional Liberals; 2) Secular Centrists; 3) Religious Centrists; and 4) Traditional Conservatives (A Guide to Reaching Young Voters). Diverse political beliefs now exist within the young American group. It is mostly in those cases wherein their needs are addressed that a political candidate can attract the sympathy of these young voters. In a self-governing society, political participation is only encouraged, not coerced nor dictated. In effect, some citizens, mostly the younger voting public, do not have the inclination to do their civic duty.
Parental guidance and example can be one of the most effective ways to influence the American youth to vote if the parents will take time to communicate and thereby impart the importance of participation in order to preserve their democracy. Likewise, the educational sector must also consider adding or reviving in their program of study a subject that will discuss the importance of civic education since college students make up a high percentage of the electorate. Candidates for public office should learn the proper approach to young people.
In a study by IOP, they found out that a greater percentage of candidates who included in their campaign itinerary the visitation of schools and colleges and other places where young voters can be found, won the elections as opposed to those who did not. Young people are not dimwitted or slow. Candidates should keep it “simple, positive, relevant, and real” (A Guide to Reaching Young Voters). There is no need to inflate a campaign speech that has neither meaning nor significance because these young listeners can differentiate if they are just being acted on or not.
Youth issues and matters that relate to the younger generation are aspects that should be given more importance since not only are the older generation of Americans are the main players in keeping the freedom healthy but likewise the youth. For young Americans to fulfill their duties as responsible citizens, new approaches have to be implemented. They do not need it hammered into their heads that it is their civic duty to vote or take part in a political activity. They are “highly independent” with their own views and opinions (A Guide to Reaching Young Voters).
No longer can they be identified with just the two party systems that exist in the country today. A more positive approach like showing them their importance in a campaign will encourage them to involve themselves; that with them not doing anything will not bring about the changes they feel should be done. As mentioned, young people are more likely to volunteer themselves, especially when they think that it will affect their lives. They must be encouraged through activities that allow them to participate, wherein they can show their own ideals and visions of how the country must be governed.
Community affairs can be used to draw these young people into performing their responsibilities toward the state. In a study by Harvard Institute of Politics, they concluded that the youth of today are not “apathetic or monolithic”. More and more young people are becoming interested in the “key political issues” (A Guide to Reaching Young Voters). They now hold the opinion that elections do have significance in their lives and are more willing to take part in it.
Although voting is not the main responsibility of young people, taking part and getting involved in the electoral process activities can lead them to being more responsible citizens. In fact, just the act of performing this political responsibility shows the kind of people they are, in a more positive way. Participation is the key to preserving the freedom being enjoyed by a democratic country such as America. Young people would do well to remember what JF Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”.