After the 2012 presidential election, Politico published an article citing a Tufts University study that found Mitt Romney may have gotten away with his plans to call the White House “home” were it not for those meddling kids.
Nationally, 67 percent of young voters cast ballots in favor of President Barack Obama in 2012, while Romney secured only 30 percent.
According to the report, Obama won at least 61 percent of the youth vote in the so-called “swing states” of Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Thanks to the intricacies of the Electoral College, had Romney been able to earn a split decision among young voters he would have nabbed those states — and the presidency — from Obama.
The next presidential election is still two years away, but the truth about the youngest voting bloc’s newfound significance is an important lesson to learn. At a young age, the millennial generation has cemented itself as an active and concerned demographic, whose numbers in 2012 continued the trend of increasing young voter participation since 2004.
The importance of our own political consciousness doesn’t lie where we choose to pin ourselves — individually or collectively — on the political map. We’re at the dawn of the defining day of our generational adulthood, where the actions taken by and on the behalf of millennials could result in changes to laws, policy and culture in the short term, with limitless future potential.
This generation is far from the first group of people to call for equal rights and social justice. For decades, members and advocates of the LGBTQ community have been fighting for their own civil liberties, the same can be said for feminists, and not long ago the legalization of marijuana was a far-fetched pipe dream of those furthest left. This is the work of previous generations, ideals that are now gaining unprecedented progress. Progress that is, at least partially, due to sweeping support from us — the youths.
As a demographic, millennials are wholly buying into the notion of our own ability to influence society. With the issues mentioned above, we have already made an impact. Yet other problems persist, like the uncomfortable reality of being institutionally pigeonholed into gambling our futures on the present by taking on massive debt for an education in hopes to achieve relevance, security and livelihood in a changing economy. We are still young enough to have not had the time to earn the revenue, nor forge the relationships, to control our own future. Yet, our needs are real.
Ultimately, if millennials continue to hold stock in the idea that we all have political significance regardless of resources it may become truer. Because with pockets thin or thick, one vote is still a vote, and for any aspiring politician, a collective body of youngsters that consistently show up at the polls could present the possibility of a heck of a lot of votes for discount rates.
Of course, it all hinges on whether young America continues to reach higher levels of social and political fusion not just on the biggest stages of presidential elections, but all of them.
Every election in every town is a chance for more millennials to cast ballots and to become a bigger percentage of America’s voting public, as we did in 2012. That will only lead to more time being spent figuring out what causes us to vote. For an example, if more students head to the polls, maybe Ann Arbor will end up electing a mayor with a more favorable view towards student life.
Not to say it will not result in an overnight redirection of political sympathies in the United States — it won’t. But the time to define what a generation means to society is a very narrow window that just happens to be open now.
It’s not that millennials own some special ability. It is important to be sure the chance to make a difference isn’t squandered.
Referring his own generation, author Stephen King wrote, “We had a chance to change the world, and opted for the home shopping network instead.”
Millennials have that same chance. Take note from those that did grasp at the opportunity for change and left a lasting impact on the world. Regardless of the cause, if enough energy is put forward, there will be an effect. Become engaged and change the world.
Tyler Scott can be reached at email@example.com.