Have you seen this poll? The one referenced in the picture above? The one that says only 55% of people between the ages of 30 and 49 will vote this November?
Every fall there's a lot of talk about whether or not people in the 18-29 age bracket are going to vote in the upcoming election. Will the millennials show up? Are the young people finally going to bring their avocado toast with them to the polls?* It’s an important conversation. And if you’re between the ages of 18 and 29, you should definitely vote this year. But I’d like to shift the conversation for just a minute and talk about my age bracket: hello, everyone between the ages of 30 and 49.
First of all, if you’re in my bracket, congratulations on surviving the switch-over from AOL to SnapChat. These last twenty years have been nuts, am I right? Also, hi, weren’t we all just watching a Supreme Court nominee defend themselves against sexual misconduct allegations like five minutes ago? Never mind, I was actually a little kid. But there are definitely a lot of oddities that come with being part of this generation, whatever the heck people are calling us these days. And here’s one more oddity for us all to consider: only 55% of us are predicted to vote in the midterms this year.
When I see statistics like this, I feel the urge to parse why only a little more than half of people in my age bracket are voting. Shouldn’t we be the voters? The ones every politician wants in their back pocket? Shouldn’t we be showing up in droves? We’re the ones who are raising kids and Border Collies and trying to make house payments. We’ve got a lot to lose and a lot to gain from every election. So why are only 55% of us bothering with the process?
I have theories. I am curious if any of them could be right.
Theory #1: Middle child syndrome
The over-fifties get all the credit for showing up to vote (Marsha, Marsha, Marsha!) and the millennials are all over every news broadcast while people try to figure out how to get them to register. (Cindy, your pigtails are ugly.) But no one ever pays any attention to us. Do we not vote because no one ever reminds us to? Because no one ever seems to notice if we do or not?
Poor, poor Jans.
Theory #2: We’re still trying to figure out where we fit into America
This theory might get a little bit on the existential side, so bear with me. We, thirty to forty-niners, are the generation that had to make the inevitable transition from Oregon Trail to iPads. We’re the ones with feet in several different worlds. None of us know what it’s like to grow up without technology, and none of us know what it’s like to grow up completely immersed it in. In a way, we have always lived in a strange go-between of the two places.
In a world where politics has been entirely rewritten by the changing face of technology, we’ve always just been sort of along for the ride. I wonder if that’s left some of us unsure how to navigate things like political conversations and opinions. I’m still trying to figure out what my Facebook ratio of cats to recipes to politics is supposed be, and I didn’t even get a chance to figure it out with MySpace before that poor thing bit the dust. Is it possible that many of us stay out of politics because it’s just one more thing that’s hard to navigate across a scope of societal changes we had to lead the charge on?
Theory #3: We started complacent, so we stay complacent
I sometimes wonder if our voting apathy has something to do with the time period we all grew up in. 9/11 changed the political face of the country, and before that, the politics of the 80s and 90s had a different tone and different implications. Student loans didn’t look the way they do now, and neither did mortgages. That was also the golden age of “we’re post-racial,” so issues like racism and classism were often ignored despite the insane amounts of institutional racism and classism which permeated both decades. I wonder: is it possible that a lot of us--especially those of us who are white and were either working, middle, or upper class at the time--weren’t incentivized to care about politics when we were younger, and we’ve never been able to pick up the habit of caring? Or am I completely off here? Did all of us care more than I think we did back then, and now we’ve just given up?
In the end, I do not know why only 55% of people around my age will probably vote this coming November. Maybe every single one of these theories is off. But I wish I understood why, as the country begs and pleads my college students to vote, more of my own peers don’t show up at the polls.**
*For the record, I absolutely love avocado toast.
**If you’ve got ideas, share ‘em. Then we can all sit around and play Oregon Trail afterward, right before we update our voter registration together.