Democracy in America:
A Shaky Foundation
“Voting is the right upon which all other rights depend”-Thomas Paine
Democracy: The foundation of America. But has that foundation cracked? By looking at recent voter turnout trends, that would appear to be the case. Although the number of eligible voters who actually vote has increased within the last three election years, the United States is still far behind when compared to other countries. Out of 172 democratic nations, the U.S. ranks at 139th, with an average of 48.3% of eligible voters going to the polls (this is compared with the #1 ranked nation of Italy, where 92.5% of eligible voters vote) (1.). In one recent survey in California, when asked why they voted either infrequently or not at all, 51% of eligible voters said that they were too busy to do so. Incidentally, 93% of infrequent voters said that voting is an important part of being a good citizen and 81% of nonvoters said that voting is an important way to make their voices heard on issues that will directly affect them (2.). Here in lies the problem: although the majority of Americans as a whole feel that voting is important, less than 50% of them actually vote. How does this represent a democracy? Throughout history, Americans have fought long and hard to acquire basic voting rights (most notable being the movements for blacks and women) and have stressed the importance of taking part in your government. Even now, the United States believes that democracy is essential and encourages its practice in foreign countries, such as in Iraq. But the reality is that democracy is shaky in our own country.
That is why the youth of America is becoming so valuable to the future of the American government. As of the 2004 Census, there are 40.7 million U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 29, more than double the number of citizens between 66 and 77 years old. Also, 18-29 year-olds account for 21% of the population that is eligible to vote (3.) Some politicians and organizations that encourage voting have recognized this fact, and recent election years have seen an increase in attempts to contact young voters. Since the creation of ‘Rock the Vote’ in 1990, MTV has encouraged youth voting and brought the issues to the homes of young Americans. This campaign is often credited with one of the biggest youth turnout rates in voter history, with 47.9 % of eligible voters ages 18-29 voting in the 1992 presidential election. Today, the “RTV” campaign has developed into “MTV’s Choose or Lose”, whose goal in 2004 was to reach the 20 million-voter mark. Consequently, the 2004 election resulted in the highest spike in youth turnout, raising the percentage of eligible voters who voted 10%. Over 21 million young Americans made their voices heard in the 2004 presidential election (4.). Hopefully, this trend can continue into the future as young Americans are exposed to important issues, can be educated about them, and then actively participate in America’s democracy.
According to the 2000 census, there were 72.4 million Americans ages 0-17, almost as many as the 77.6 million Baby Boomers (those ages 36-54) (5.). Therefore, it is essential that this surging generation can grow up to be informed and contributing U.S. citizens. The democratic foundation of America is dependent on the action of the people.
Voting and the U.S. Prison System
1. "Turnout in the World-Country by Country Performance." Mar. 2005. 14 Jan. 2007 <http://www.idea.int/vt/survey/voter_turnout_pop2.cfm>.
2. Longley, Robert. "Survey Answers, Why Don'T More Americans Vote?" 16 Jan. 2007 <http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/thepoliticalsystem/a/whynotvote.htm>.
3. Lopez, Mark H. "Youth Demographics-Young People by the Numbers." Jan. 2005. CIRCLE: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. 15 Jan. 2007 <http://www.civicyouth.org/quick/youth_demo.htm#1>.
4. Fleischer, Michael. "Youth Turnout Up Sharply in 2004." 03 Nov. 2004. CIRCLE: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. 16 Jan. 2007 <http://www.civicyouth.org/PopUps/Release_Turnout2004.pdf>.
5. Lopez, Mark H. "Youth Demographics-Young People by the Numbers." Jan. 2005. CIRCLE: The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. 15 Jan. 2007