Headline English

Young voters turn-out

3. 11. 2014

Mid-term elections in the US are approaching. However, not many people seem inspired by them. There is a huge difference between mid-term and presidential elections.

The 2012 presidential election saw a turnout (1) rate of 59 %. Two years earlier, the mid-term election turnout had been just 42%. Even fewer voters may turn out for this year’s mid-terms.

Few potential voters are as uninterested as the young. In 2010 the turnout of people aged 18 to 24 was just 21%. This means that in mid-term elections, Republicans dominate the ballot (2), because their voters are older and more likely to vote.

This phenomenon is not limited to the US. In 2010 just 44% of people aged 18 to 24 cast their votes in the UK’s general election. For all other age cohorts the rate was 65%. In fact young people have the lowest turnout rates across Europe.

But why don’t the young vote? Historically, youth turnout has never been particularly high. However the situation has certainly deteriorated in the past few decades

One explanation, which many older people subscribe to, is that the young are simply too lazy. Yet today’s young people are much more active than the previous generations used to be in many areas, including volunteering, they are less likely to have substance abuse (3) problems and are by far the most educated generation in history.

Another explanation is that young people simply do not have much of a stake in (4) society. If you have children and property, you should be interested in how schools are run or how high the property tax is. The impact of political decisions on people who have not settled down, however, is much more limited. Furthermore, the lifestyle of the unsettled young can make it difficult to vote: in the UK, almost a quarter of 19-year-olds move from one local authority to another in a typical year. That means that they have to specifically register for voting, which they very often simply forget to do until it is too late. In some US states, voters not owning a driver’s license or passport need to get a special ID in order to vote. As in Britain, many of them end up unable to vote. These laws tend to be promulgated by right-wingers to suppress turnout among those groups that are most likely to vote against them.

Perhaps the most depressing explanation is that in many places, young people do not feel that there is anyone worth voting for. A survey found that in 2008, 22% of French 15- to 24-year-olds said they believed society’s problems could only be fixed by a revolution.

https://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2014/10/economist-explains-24

Questions

  1. What is the difference between the US mid-term and the presidential elections in terms of turnout?
  2. Why do the Republicans tend to win mid-term elections according to the article?
  3. Are there any significant differences between young voter turnout in the US and elsewhere in the Western democratic world?
  4. Does the article suggest that young people are lazier than older people?
  5. How does, according to the article, settling down influence voter turnout?
  6. According to the article, why are there special ID cards for voters in the US?
  7. Do you go voting in every election? Based on what do you decide whether to vote or not?
  8. Do you think that voting should be made obligatory like in Belgium?

Vocabulary

turnout (1) – the number of people who vote in an election

ballot (2) – a piece of paper on which you make a secret vote

substance abuse (3) – the habit of taking too many drugs, in a way that harms your health

have a stake in (4) – if you have a stake in something, you will get advantages if it is successful, and you feel that you have an important connection with it

 

You can find additional explanation and more examples to help you understand and use English words and phrases at https://dictionary.reference.com, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/, https://www.merriam-webster.com/ or https://www.ldoceonline.com/

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