Young voters in America have historically shown a low percentage of voting participation, but this year… school safety politics might change that.
In the last 20 years, no more than 20 percent of those age 18 to 24 have gone to the polls to voice their opinions during a midterm election. This year could be different.. according to an Education Week study which surveyed the youngest eligible voters, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they plan to vote this year.
The rise in school shootings is certainly a considerable factor in the minds of young voters. February’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida and subsequent activism around school safety politics have helped to fuel political engagement within young voters.
“We can argue all we want, but the only way we win the argument is when we go and we vote on these decisions,” said Mei-Ling Ho-Shing, a Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School senior.
In the Education Week survey, 15 percent of young people cited school safety or gun control as the most important social problem facing the country. The study also found that 40 percent of the youngest eligible voters cited the Florida shooting as having quite a lot or a great deal of influence on their political engagement.
Students have been at the forefront of activist movements in the time since the Parkland shooting. These movements include the National School Walkout and March for Our Lives earlier this year, along with a national bus tour to register young voters and a recent School Safety Bill of Rights calling for better mental health resources and gun control regulations on campus.
“We should always be empowering our students, not disenfranchising them. More guns has never been the solution to any problem,” said Esther Ubadigbo, a student at Roosevelt High School in Des Moines, Iowa.
Regardless of predictions, young voters will have to prove that their passion for political issues extends beyond words by going to the polls this midterm. Will young voters follow through and affect change in 2018?