What Younger Voters Would Like to See in Candidates / Elections

As November rapidly approaches, voters must quickly decide which candidate they will cast their ballot in the presidential election. I, like many others, am a first-time voter, and frankly, I’m overwhelmed.

When is voter registration due? What does that policy mean? Who is everyone else voting for? Are there other viable candidates? What if I make the wrong decision? These are just a few of the thoughts that have cluttered my mind as the race continues, and I believe that many other young voters share my worries. However, despite being bundles of nerves, many of us also have strong opinions regarding what qualities we want to see in our candidates.

One concern that has repeatedly resurfaced during discussion with young voters is the ages of our representatives, including the candidates for president. The two currently leading candidates, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, are each around eighty years old, making them six decades older than the youngest voters. This brings up two worries: a lack of representation for younger generations and a lack of ability to make decisions that reflect the current political climate.

In my government class, students frequently confess their apprehensions that the disparity in age between candidates and some of their voters will cause misrepresentation. Several candidates in the presidential race grew up during a vastly different time period, and countless voters feel that their modern plights are disregarded.

For example, climate change isn’t exactly a new topic, but it is one that has been at the forethought of young people more than ever before. Many of us fear that politicians will ignore the damaged state of the Earth now, leaving us to solve even worse environmental problems in the future. Another topic that young people want to address is gun violence within schools. Once again, this is not a new problem, but instances of shootings within schools have grown at an astronomical level over the last few decades.

While technology has been developed and security procedures have been implemented to prevent these occurrences, concern is still rampant; school should feel safe. Young voters would like candidates to add this topic closer to the top of their agendas, but most politicians are not young enough to even have kids that have experienced this fear, much less understand it themselves. As a result, younger voters likely feel that these issues don’t yield sufficient attention from politicians. We feel that younger candidates would have a better understanding of current voters, thereby enacting policies that target specific issues for which the voters are passionate.

Another concern that students have with the ages of our politicians is their mental and physical health. We worry that the tasks performed by a president may be too strenuous for people of certain ages. Everyone would like a president that can serve their complete term with a sound mind and body, but this becomes increasingly less likely as politicians age, particularly as octogenarians. Therefore, we tend to have more confidence in presidents who have not surpassed the usual age of retirement, falling below seventy years old.

Another problem that arises surrounding the presidential election is the deep polarization between political parties. Young people that I have spoken with feel that no candidate truly represents them, because most fall either too far to the left or the right. Unfortunately, third parties have smaller voices and sometimes feel like a wasted vote. We want to put our vote behind people who represent our interests, but we also want to support a candidate who we believe has the ability to win.

Many have begun to feel that the powerful Democrat and Republican parties have shifted so far to each extreme that our opinions are not heard. Rather, they forcefully push the agendas of their parties. This also causes us to feel divided socially. You must, “pick a side,” and when you do, you must surround yourself with people on that side. Falling in the middle has begun to mean that you don’t have strong enough opinions and are therefore rejected by either side of the political spectrum. Our opinions on politics are diverse, and we wish that there would be space in politics where that is reflected.

Well, what do young voters actually want?

Great question! Firstly, we want candidates who genuinely listen to our concerns. Because young people today are statistically less likely to vote than older voters, we sometimes feel overlooked. Few candidates cater to the interests of young voters, opting to focus on topics that more reliable voters find important. However, we may be more likely to vote if a candidate focused more on issues that are relevant to us.

We would also like to see more diverse but viable options for candidates. While there are multiple candidates that one can vote for, lately it has felt as though our presidential nominees have already been chosen for us. A]It would be helpful if the Republican and Democratic parties threw more support at a wider variety of candidates, and another could be giving minority parties more space to market candidates through open debates and additional monetary support.

Mostly, we would like patience from the generations above us. Young voters feel confused. There are so many policies and so many implications of each policy and so many opinions surrounding each policy. It’s difficult to decide which issues and perspectives to prioritize with little life experience. Also, it takes time to thoroughly research and make an informed judgement on each policy. We are young, and our opinions are sometimes radical, but they still deserve respect. We are in the process of learning what matters to us and would like a space free from judgement to make these decisions.

– Sophia Stringer / Roanoke

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