The recent UK referendum vote on exiting the EU (and its results) are a useful starting point to help teens understand the importance of being involved in the political process. At least it has that. If you need to read up on the situation, the BBC has a thorough explanation of the vote and its potential consequences here.
We hear a good amount of buzz these days about how (and why) younger voters are feeling politically disaffected, and about both low voter registration and low voter turnout for these demographic groups, at least in the U.S. We actually have chronically low voter turnout in the States, and that is just the count of registered voters, not people eligible to vote. The Brexit referendum voter turnout in the UK was right at 72.2%, which I find breathtaking. Imagine how our country might be different if we had similar voter turnout.
But what our teens need to see most is the sharp distinction in the breakdown of the vote by age or generation. While the ‘leave’ vote won in the EU referendum by a slim margin, it’s estimated that around 75% of those voters 29 and under voted for ‘remain’. Much has been made of how the older generation, who will have to live with the consequences of this vote for significantly less time, have made a decision that will disproportionately affect the lives of younger UK citizens.
My fear is that the same will be true in our upcoming presidential election. Regardless of your opinions on the potential outcome of the election this fall, however, it only can benefit all of us to have more active and politically engaged citizenry, and that needs to start before they are eligible to vote. If you’re looking for a starting point for discussing political involvement with your teens, you could do much worse than asking them to listen to this short Planet Money podcast on Brexit with you.