Election Day 2012: No Matter How Disenfranchised We Are, Millennials, We Must Vote

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that most folks I know under the age of 30 are just plain tired. A depressed economy, scarcity of jobs, student debt, and the prospect of moving back to Mom and Dad’s is enough to take a significant psychological toll on anyone; so perhaps it is not too far of a stretch to assume young people’s general wariness has affected their desire to run to the polls on Tuesday. I’m not making excuses for millennial voters, but I can certainly see where the hesitance might be coming from.

As an Obama supporter, I’m also sad to admit that the thrill is gone (Spotify search: B.B. King). While I don’t think there is any possible way President Obama could have single-handedly fixed the mess we were (and still are) in, I also see that the reality of young people’s dire situation has dissolved the campaign’s rhetoric of hope and change like an acid bath.

This tangible generational malaise is born out by some of the numbers, too. A July Gallup poll indicated that voter intention among young people was severely lacking, with 20% fewer saying they’d “definitely vote” as compared to polls taken in July prior to the 2008 election.

According to a more recent analysis of Gallup’s likely voter sample, even though voter turnout may be down overall, the breakdown of this year’s electorate will look very similar to that of 2008 and 2004; this means populations who are crucial to Obama’s re-election, including racial minorities, women, and, you guessed it … young adults, will likely turn out at rates similar to those in 2008. And I’m crossing my fingers that this prediction turns out to be true.

In 2008, I invited all my friends over on election night. We ate chili, drank beer, and got teary eyed as the early results poured in making it clear that Obama had won the presidency. We reveled in the historic moment and felt thrilled to have taken part in it. With young people just like us coming out in record numbers to cast their ballots, we were optimistic that we had a hand in realizing the change — in being the change — we so desperately wanted.

Four years later, there will be no party at my house on election night. Instead, I’ll be waiting anxiously, perhaps late into the night, for John King and his magic map to tell me that Obama is in the clear. Though I know many people's enthusiasm for President Obama has waned, and perhaps rightly so given today’s bleak outlook for millennials, I still hope young voters will take the time to cast their ballots on Tuesday.

No matter who they vote for, be it Mitt Romney or Jill Stein, I want all young voters to voice their opinions at the polls this time around. If you don’t like the current state of affairs, say something about it. If Obama’s let you down, or if Gary Johnson’s your man, let them know. Because this is a tight race, and who wants to be a flash in the pan? A one-time deal? We made a difference last time around, and we can make a difference in every election. That’s why, millennials, it’s up to you, and I’m waiting with bated breath. 

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Liana Gamber Thompson

Liana Gamber Thompson is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California, where she studies youth engagement and participatory culture. She holds a PhD in Sociology and Feminist Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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