It’s an interesting time to be young. More so than any other generation, the youth of the 21st century are a generation often talked about and, even more often, misunderstood.
Already being elected to office across the country, we will soon be the ones running the whole darn show. We’ve grown up in an age of unlimited information, making the largest generation in the country a vibrantly diverse group. A group that has been, perhaps, (mis)characterized as fickle or apathetic, we are a demographic that have stymied politicians and political scientists alike. How exactly one captures the attention of our capricious demographic is the subject of much ongoing investigation and debate—with broad sweeping generalizations made off of the failures in traditional tactics like advertising and canvassing.
In my mind, this is a flawed conversation. I’d like to think that it shouldn’t be about “capturing” our generation, but rather engaging it. The conversation for getting young voters involved in politics seems so driven by acquiring them as part of a voting bloc. In my experience, it’s more important to frame it as a conversation. To return agency, and thought, and investigation to the generation. It’s not a marketing tactic or some surface-level influence, but legitimately involving that 18-37 year old demographic in civil discourse. This could take many different forms, but the fact is that it simply isn’t on enough young folks’ radars. It’s our goal to get it there.
Historically, young voters do not turn out well at the polls, nor do they engage politically with their peers and communities. How can we change that? How can we make politics and civil discourse important again? That is precisely what SAM is setting out to better understand.
As part of SAM’s strategy in Kansas we are visiting college campuses across the state to talk to real people, face to face. College campuses provide a unique access point to younger voters, in their space, within the context of their daily lives. Visit any school in this country and you will find a diverse student body that is active in its community in a multitude of ways. Campuses brim with energy and have provided some of the most important political movements in the history of our country (although high schoolers are now taking part in the action as well!). We want to renew that spirit and help that energy grow and flow from the quad to the ballot box.
As we head out to the various campuses in the days ahead, goal is singular: to listen to students and get their take on their state, the country, and how they see themselves fitting into it all.
How are we going to do this?
Good question. This is part of our broader surveying effort in which we are asking six open-ended questions (feel free to take our survey and give us your thoughts as well) about the state of politics, both local and national, as it relates to us—the people. This isn’t a poll. We want to know what you’re thinking and why. We believe that it is impossible to determine actionable insights from numbers and percentages, so we want the real words from real people, to give us direction.
Simply hearing from students isn’t enough for us, though. We want to engage them in a legitimate conversation in hopes that they might then be inspired to share the excitement with their social and familial circles. Together, with faculty, students, and student groups, we believe we can engage a larger percentage of the student body, to empower and return agency to a demographic that often feels like they have no voice. It starts with the people.
Keep an eye out for events on campuses in your state, and do not hesitate to reach out if you have questions, concerns, or a desire to help!