Rocking the Nope: Young People Still Aren’t Voting

Dr. Munr Kazmir
4 min readMar 17, 2020

Efforts to turn out the youth vote have been failing for decades. Bernie Sanders has promised to change all that. But he hasn’t.

Supporters of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix, Arizona. March 5, 2020. (photo: Gage Skidmore)

“Young people don’t vote. Older people vote in droves.” — Lisa Simpson

The oddly prophetic nature of the Simpsons has proven itself again and again over the years. From- weirdly- predicting the presidency of Donald Trump to the lamentations of Lisa Simpson upon her discovery that when it comes to social issues, politics, and exercising the constitutional right to vote, some people are all talk.

Young people don’t vote.

In a Harvard poll last year, 43% of 18–29 year olds responded that were likely to vote in their party’s primary. The latest polls from Super Tuesday states put the actual number of voters in that age category at a dismal 5%-19%.

Even in this Age of Information, with the existential threat of a reelected President Donald Trump looming and the Millennial catnip of Bernie Sanders beckoning- young people still aren’t voting.

Youth-culture icon MTV tried for over a decade with its “Rock the Vote” campaign, achieving only poor to middling results. Everyone from Taylor Swift to Beyonce to Madonna has begged them. The Democratic Party has pleaded with them.

But only 16% of 18–20 year olds showed up at the polls to vote in U.S. elections 2014.

“Preregistration and automatic registration have such consequences for young people. Because follow-through is so much of the story, there’s a real high cost to procrastination in U.S. democracy.” — Sunshine Hillygus, Duke University researcher on youth voting patterns

Even in a race including a highly-visible, youth-oriented candidate like Sen. Bernie Sanders, young people have not been turning out in droves to support the candidate everyone seems so fond of on Twitter.

Their reasons are myriad; some involve the lack of doughnuts and other incentives at polling places. Other reasons are darker.

Many young people don’t feel that either party is really speaking to their issues or needs. Climate change and the environment in particular are hot-button issues for people in…