Not many of us.
Americans enjoy all the hard-earned freedom that comes from living in a political democracy. We are allowed to vote, protest, repeal, advocate, boycott, petition, and change laws. We choose who represents our cities, states, and countries.
Most of us don’t care. Most don’t vote. Most don’t know the recent propositions on a ballot. Most cannot name their city mayor or senator. who the name of their current mayor or senator.
We expect this. In a society that splashes its front-page news with celebrity gossip, our citizens know more about the Jersey-Karashian-Housewives saga than the politicians running their country. Should we be surprised? Today, politics are rarely discussed in schools, and even in high school history and civics classes, the curriculum tends to focus more on the structure of elections and the history of past presidents than recent events. Moreover, the American society seems to place a strong taboo on politics, as if talking about controversy should be forbidden.
So, who does care?
Rich, white men: No surprise there. The wealthy upper class keep up on recent polls and elections, because they know what happens in Washington directly affects what happens in their investment accounts. After all, who provides funding for such campaigns? Who is holding most of the nation’s income and using it to invest in the banks and stock market? These guys, of course. Politicians vary greatly on their take on how to govern the economy and taxes; naturally, people with money want what’s best for protecting and enhancing their income.
Extremists: AKA, the Rush Limbaughs and Michael Moores of the world. To a lesser degree, people who swing to the far left or far right of the political spectrum tend to pay more attention than those in the neutral zone. Why? Because, they wouldn’t be extremists if they weren’t passionate about politics in the first place! Likewise, they tend to be more inflexible and rigid in their beliefs. Unlike people who gravitate more towards the middle, these people believe that if the opponent wins, it would be absolutely detrimental (ex: extreme conservatives blaming President Obama for everything that has gone wrong since 2008; extreme liberals blaming President Bush for everything that went wrong since 2000).
Religious individuals: According to data from the last presidential election, those who attend church at least once a week were more likely to vote than those who attended less than once a week or not at all. Why is this? Despite any recounts or insistence of separating church and state, politics and religion remain intricately and stubbornly intertwined. Social, religious issues such as stances on abortion, gay marriage, and women’s rights are heavily tied into political platforms. This could explain why there has never been a president following a non-Christian faith. People like that sense of familiarity; as a society, we tend to perceive “strong, wholesome leaders” as those with some kind of religious background.
Who doesn’t care enough?
Minorities: Despite being the fastest-growing group in America, minority ethnic groups simply do not vote as much as their Caucasian counterparts. While data on this is inclusive, it can be theorized that people still perceive politics as a game between the “rich, old, white men.” Other unaccounted factors should be considered: extraneous variables such as language barriers, lack of knowledge about politics, unfamiliarity with the process of registering to vote, physical and mental handicaps can all adversely influence an individual’s interest in politics.
Youth: Regardless of all the Rock the Vote campaigns and the soar of young individuals seeking higher levels of education, the 18-29 crowd simply lags behind every other age group when it comes to poll numbers. In 2008, approximately 46% of individuals voted in the presidential election. In 2000, that number was about 36%.Why? Age certainly can certainly play a role. Young people learn how the “real world” works through a transition marked by independence, change, and growth. Politics may seem foreign and inapplicable to their daily lives. Compared to older age groups, they are probably not as affected by economic issues, such as positions on social security, tax breaks, or financial investments. Because they do not have as many assets or dependents (children, houses, stock), they may not feel as inclined to worry about how the current state of politics affects them. In this demographic, we see young adults entering various universities, bouncing from apartment to apartment, transitioning state and city lines for new jobs. This can make it difficult to register to vote, and oftentimes, individuals who are new to the area may not know where the local polls will be held. Furthermore, if someone just relocated to a new city or state, he or she may not feel a need to vote, on the grounds that they lack adequate information about the current geographic issues.
Moral of the story: If you choose not to educate yourself about contemporary issues and you choose not to vote, you simply should not complain about the outcome.