As the Republican National Convention continues this week, so does an emphasis to showcase inclusion and diversity. Part of that is an outreach to younger voters. In Cuyahoga County, those between the ages of 17-24 make up a small percentage of people who can make decisions on their local, state, and national leaders. 90.3's Yolanda Perdomo reports on what young voters have to say about the political process and the people who represent it.
YP- A recent study by Northwestern University's School of Journalism indicates young Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 lean to more conservative than liberal values. While these figures may sound like they bode well for Republican presidential hopeful George W. Bush, traditionally, young voters are notorious for having a low turnout rate at the polls. At the Kirtland Public Library, in Lake County, a dozen people gather in one of the conference rooms for Lake County/Geauga County Young Republicans Club. They begin this meeting, as they do all of their gatherings, with the pledge of allegiance.
Several of the group's members are in late 20's and 30's. 26 year old Adam Purcell of Timberlake says one reason why some people his age don't get involved in the political process is because they think it doesn't affect their lives.
AP- When you're not as aware of the impact of the decisions made in your community or on a larger scale; when you're not aware of how those decisions impact you, you tend to not worry about them. There's a lot of things to think about in a day. If you don't have time to...if you don't realize the larger scale, it does indeed have an impact on you as an individual, you may not chose to motivate yourself to get involved.
YP- That theory is echoed by Amy Dreger. She's the director of publications for the League of Women Voters of Greater Cleveland. That organization recently completed a survey on 1000 young people about what motivated them to vote and what turned them away from voting and getting interested in the political process. Dreger says young adults admit they lack the knowledge to make an informed decision, despite radio, print, television, and Internet outlets.
AD- They think politicians are, can't be trusted, was something that came up in our survey. But one of the big reasons that young people don't vote, according to our survey, is that they don't have enough information.
I think one of the things with young people, and its true of a lot of people today, a lot of us think Œwhat's in it for me'. What am I going to get out of this? And to put it on a more personal level and try to educate young people that you may not think about social security or Medicare now. But you do pay taxes, even if you just have a part time job. Or you buy a CD or article of clothing, you're paying taxes. You want your streets to be safe, and your food to be safe. So there's a whole host of things that we try to tweak to get them interested in thinking about how it affects them.
YP- Dreger notes those who never voted never went with their parents, or their parents never voted, so in many cases, they don't know how to do it. She says they were surprised by some of the results of the survey.
When asked to rank the order they felt that government pays the most attention to the most, young adults put themselves on the bottom of the list, behind senior citizens, gays and lesbians, families with children, and executives of major corporations.
AD- And of course what happens is the young people, they're turned off, they don't vote, and that just discourages those candidates to talk about issues of interest. So it becomes this vicious circle.
One of the major issues that are of interest of young people here locally is crime. And that kind of surprised us because we always hear that things are getting safer and better. But that was a major issue on their part.
YP- Everything from crime in schools to the role of the state Supreme Court was discussed at a youth speak out session at a Borders bookstore in Cleveland Heights. Dozens of young people sat in chairs and crouched on the floor around bookshelves to ask questions of area judges and lawmakers. 19 year old Amish maj-Madar thinks while some people go into politics with the most noble of intentions, they somehow forget why they got the job in the first place.
AM- I'm sure on the very local levels, and lower levels of government they do. On a national platform, I think that all politicians in the beginning, they have an idea of what they want to do. They don't want to play politics; however, the reality of the fact is that's what happens. And they get caught up in what happens.
YP- 23 year old Geraldine McKinney sits quietly in the back of the bookstore, studying for her GED test, but she got up from her chair several times to watch the forum. She admits while it was an interesting discussion and that she once registered to vote, McKinney has no plans to cast a ballot in this upcoming election.
GM- No, I don't think I will? (YP: Why not?) I'm just not interested in it. What do you think politicians are interested in? Money, making a name for themselves, power, I don't think it has nothing to do with us. Honestly.
YP- The change for young adults may still be a long way off if current numbers are any indication. According to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections, close to a million people are registered to vote. Out of that number, only 62,000, a little over 6% are people 17-24 years old. About half that 62,000 have never voted. Anyone wanting to participate in the November elections has until October to register. In Cleveland, Yolanda Perdomo, 90.3 WCPN, 90.3 FM.