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Election Essays

Young Voters' Issues Are Ignored

October 28, 2000|DEE ANNA S. BEHLE | Dee Anna Sloggett Behle, of Placentia, is a senior at Cal Poly Pomona

During the final presidential debate in Missouri, Jim Lehrer asked Al Gore and George W. Bush how they might cure the apathy of young voters. It was an important question on a topic that largely had been ignored in the campaign.

The question gave Gore and Bush an opportunity to appeal to millions of potential voters who have felt left out by the campaign tone and content, but as each addressed the question it became apparent that neither was in tune with what concerns young Americans.

As the candidates tour the country, the concerns of young voters are sacrificed in favor of issues that affect their parents and grandparents. Ask informed voters what issues are being debated and their answers will likely be Medicare, Social Security, taxes, health care and balancing the budget. No wonder, according to data released during a forum sponsored by MTV Networks and CBS News, that 25% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 do not know the names of the two major party candidates who are running, or that 70% of that age group has no clue who the vice presidential candidates are. While these issues are important, younger Americans are more concerned about issues that relate to their safety, education, cost of living, quality of life and the environment. The alleged indifference to politics of young Americans is not because we are disgusted and feel a lack of respect for the Clinton administration (even if this is true), but because the major issues that concern us have not been seriously considered by either candidate.

We worry about where we fit in to this new economy and how we can afford a college education. Tuition is not always paid for by our parents; it is often supplemented by part-time or full-time work and we wonder how, with tuition costs rising steadily, we will be able to afford to get through school.

While the economy has been on fast-forward and we are excited about our prospects, we find it increasingly difficult to find a safe and affordable place to live. As incomes increase, so too does the price of a home, and we are reminded that in places like San Francisco we will be forced to live farther and farther away from where we work.

All around us we see less open space as areas are bulldozed to make room for housing developments and agricultural land is sold for a premium to developers. The last remaining strawberry fields, Christmas tree lots, orange groves and postage-stamp-size areas of land are destroyed in order to support an increasing need for housing and commerce. While we recognize that more housing is necessary, we wonder if there isn't another way to keep the cost of housing down and provide enough living space while preserving an adequate natural environment.

We are afraid that in our lifetime we will have destroyed so much of our once-pristine environment that we will not be able to share the experiences we had as kids with our own children. While we have made an effort to protect our marine environment from pollution, our beaches are closed because of human waste and runoff more often now than in any time in history.

Underlying the apathy of young American voters today is an acute sense that our involvement does not matter, that the issues we are most concerned about are not taken seriously and that neither candidate seems genuinely interested in how we really feel.

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