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Why Millennials Should Care About Local Politics

Just this past week, millennials turned out in record number at the New York primary. According to exit polls conducted by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE):
  • 18-29 year olds cast 408,000 ballots, making up a 14% share of total voters
  • 322,000 voted Democrat (78% of total ballots cast by 18-29 year olds)
  • 18-29 year olds split 65% to 35%, Sanders over Clinton
  • Senator Sanders commanded 81% of all 18-24 year olds
When compared to the 2008 presidential election, we saw almost 100,000 more 18-29 year olds show up to vote in New York. This runs counter to the stereotype that millennials “don’t care” about politics, and rather that they are ready to have their voices heard in this presidential election.

Millennials on average are more liberal than their older counterparts and are increasingly more frustrated with the establishment; but to make any real and lasting changes they must turn out for local elections.

While it’s amazing to see record breaking voter turnout in Presidential elections, the real nitty gritty of politics is won and lost at the local level. Local politics is a place young people have tended to avoid. For example, in the 2014 midterm elections, where no presidential race occurred, less than 20% of people between the ages 18-29 voted. Sadly, this was the lowest ever recorded.

In a poll of 1,617 people between 15-34 years old by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies found that 68% of all respondents think that politicians ignore the views of young people. In the same poll, a mere 7% said they have turned out for a political meeting.

This disconnect is real.  

Young people feel jilted, and politicians are not responding. Despite a generally negative view towards government, 64% said they would vote if they were aware of an election tomorrow. It seems both sides of the fence are stuck with inaction, except when it comes to presidential politics.  

Real consequences have stemmed from this inaction. 70% of all state legislators are majority Republican and 60% of all states have Republican Governors. If the right controls state legislators they are free to redistrict areas in their state to align with more Republican ideals. The system isn’t fair, but it can be challenged.

As previously mentioned, millennials are more liberal than older generations, but turnout less to vote. It’s going to take work on behalf of millennials to get involved, but it will also take work for politicians who share millennial values to reach out and connect.

With access to the internet rampant, there is almost no excuse to be uninformed. Here are some great websites to give individuals the knowledge necessary to get involved in local politics and make a difference.
  • Ballotpedia is a great resource to get information regarding candidates in local, state and federal elections as well as keeping up to date with ballot initiatives in your state.
  • Vote Smart formally known as Project Vote Smart, this website is a great tool to look up candidate and election information by zip code.
The next step is to get out there and push this presidential election momentum into every nook and cranny of the United States.

Since 2011, nearly one-third of 18-24 year olds’ TV viewing has migrated to the activities listed above. If politicians want to reach millennials they need to go where they are. Millennials are busy watching hilarious YouTube videos, binge watching Netflix, chatting over Facebook, obsessing over Tweets, sending stupid pictures via Snapchat, and reading hours away on Reddit.

As the political landscape evolves to accommodate the changes in media consumption politicians will have to adapt. Again, this is happening on the presidential level. Senator Bernie Sanders’ team released Snapchat geofilters before the New York primary, and a Super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton is slated to spend over $35 million on digital ads targeting millennials.  You would be hard pressed to find a state legislator who has anything more than a barely managed Facebook page — and that is a major problem.

The solution is likely meeting in the middle. The information “revolution” needs to be taken to the next level. Millennials need to know their mayors and state representatives, learning their agendas, and challenging them like what has been done on the national stage with Presidential candidates.

In turn, politicians will need to come to the middle as well. Utilization of social media and online video, speaking directly to young people in the mediums they are active within, and increasing authenticity through actions that appear less staged and more natural, will engage young people in ways they haven’t been.

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