It’s no secret that young voters are less likely to vote than older voters. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in every presidential election since 1964, 18-to 24-year-olds voted at lower rates than all other age groups. In the last mid-term election, 21.3 percent of 18-to 24-year-olds voted. The number was almost three times higher for those 65 and over.
With another election on tap this week, we asked one young Idaho voter why he votes, and why he thinks other people his age don’t.
Adam Weber describes himself as a “political nerd.” He’s 21 and a junior at Boise State University. He’s also the Chairman of the BSU College Republicans. He says he started getting involved in politics when he was in high school. It was 2008 and Barack Obama and John McCain were running for President.
“It really captivated me then, I could see there was a definite divide in the country and the process was really interesting to me,” Weber remembers. “But further than that, I could see results from elections, I could see different laws being passed one way or the other and I said, well, I need to be a part of that.”
And that’s what he did. He tried starting up a political group at his high school in eastern Washington. He traveled to Olympia, the state’s capital, with other students to learn more about government.And he says he was the one all his friends turned to when they had a question about politics.
That’s how he first got involved. But he says his interest in how the government works, and what politicians do, started much earlier: in first grade. He was on vacation with his family in Las Vegas. One day in September, they turned on the television and watched as the World Trade Center towers in New York were destroyed. He says he remembers everything about that day.
“I remember thinking 'what causes this and why does this happen?' and I remember looking at the response from our government and I think that was important to me too,” Weber says. "Because at that point and time, I was frustrated about people just coming and killing Americans and I remember watching George Bush standing on top of the rubble talking to the people and that really was an emotional moment for me at that age.”
He says the events of that day were a catalyst that started him paying more attention to what politicians do, because their actions affect people’s lives. Growing up on a farm in Moses Lake, Washington, he’s seen that firsthand.
“For me, I’ve seen the direct impacts of regulation, especially in the farming industry, I can see how that hurts us, and I can see how if we can better be informed ourselves, we can talk to these people running for office and say this is what is hurting our farm, what can we do to fix that,” Weber adds. “It just goes so much deeper than just voting.”
That means he doesn’t just vote in every election, he gets involved. He joined the BSU College Republicans as a freshman, now he chairs the group. Members network with Idaho candidates, attend events and fundraisers and talk one-on-one with politicians. He and some friends even started a political consulting business, handling social media and websites for local candidates. Weber says voting is just one part of a bigger process.
“I think it’s really important you tell people to vote, you tell people to research their votes, I think that’s what matters the most and a pretty good reason of why I’m involved with politics, so I can spread my message of why I should vote for this person and my vote turns into 20 votes.”
Weber admits he’s in the minority in his age group, when it comes to getting involved in politics and voting. He says most college students just aren’t interested in politics because they haven’t formed opinions on a lot of issues.
“I just think kids they just don’t know,” Weber says. “They don’t know what they believe in, they don’t know what law affects the economy, what law affects social issues they just don’t know and it’s almost intimidating for them to go to the polls and vote because they’re not sure what to do.”
He says college is the time for students to find out what they believe in, and why they believe in it. He says that’s what he’s done during his time at Boise State.
“I think college is a great place to grow as a person,” Weber says. “And for me, I’ve grown as a person, I’ve grown as a person involved in politics too, at the same time and I think people really figure out what they want to do with their lives, how they approach their lives and I think college is a great place to do that and I think college is a great place to start getting involved in politics and I hope people do.”
Weber says when he graduates, he’ll go back to work on his family farm. He says farming is more than a full-time job and he’ll have less time for politics. But he hopes to stay as involved as he can.
Find Samantha Wright on Twitter @samwrightradio
Copyright 2014 Boise State Public Radio