Magazine article Insight on the News

Xers Still Nix Politics

Magazine article Insight on the News

Xers Still Nix Politics

Article excerpt

Twentysomething generation Xers have tuned out, if the last election is any indication.

Few generation Xers voted in November, and political scientists are concluding those twentysomethings are more detached from politics than any generation this century. Random interviews with young people in North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio and Indiana, as well as the nation's capital, found the children of baby boomers not only admitting, but in many cases boasting, that they don't vote.

"Nah" said Matthew Dratch, a student at the University of Maryland, when asked if he would go to the polls. "It doesn't really seem relevant." Dratch, an 18-year-old business major from Rumson, N.J., has no idea who represents his district in Congress. "Kids these days don't care," he explained. "Politicians don't relate to us."

Many gen-Xers say politicians don't address the subjects they think important -- world peace, for example. "I don't see them tune into what we want," says Virginia Muholland, who works a retail job in Cincinnati. She cites the environment, Africa and poverty as issues that matter to her.

Of course, young people traditionally are less inclined to vote than their parents and grandparents, who as property owners with higher-paying jobs have more at stake in the economic system. Parents also have more invested in the school system, have a greater interest in low crime and are generally less self-absorbed.

But apathy among this generation of young people -- 70 million potential voters between the ages of 18 and 35 -- appears to run deeper. Thomas Mann, director of government studies at the Brookings Institution, says voter and overall civic apathy is at a high among youth. And as more young people disengage, the median age of voters has crept up toward 50.

"A lot of research on generation X demonstrates that it is the most politically disengaged generation of the century," says Mann. "The New Dealers and those forged by the nationally unifying experience of war are being replaced by those whose reading of politics comes from Seinfeld."

A 1995 survey of more than 250,000 college freshmen at the University of California at Los Angeles' Higher Education Research Institute found that just under 32 percent of respondents consider "keeping up with political affairs" an

important goal. …

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