Statistical analysis of voting trends in the United States show that after reaching stable levels in 1950, voter participation has decreased significantly throughout the last half of the twentieth century. This trend has been especially noted among youthful voters between the ages of 18 and 34. The realization that so many young people are failing to participate in the political process is a trend that has alarmed many political leaders and analysts. The issue has become so pervasive that many scholars are now attempting to delineate the specific problems that are impeding the development of youth political participation.At the present time, youth political participation in the United States remains historically low. Even in the 2004 Presidential election when youth political participation was supposed to reach an all time high, the number of voters between the ages of 18 and 34 that showed up at the polls only increased 1.6 percent over the 2000 election (Brown, 2005). Although this gain does indeed represent an improvement, it demonstrates the consistent problems that political activists have had when it comes to attracting youthful voters. Given the importance of the voting process to the maintenance of democracy, there is a clear impetus to understand why youth political participation remains consistently low.With the realization that youth political participation is such a critical issue for the development of social and political discourse, this investigation seeks to provide a broad overview of the situation and the specific theories that scholars have offered with respect to the issue.
[...] When framed in this context, it becomes evident that any theory that has been developed to understand youth political participation invariably fails because it cannot fully quantify the ubiquitous variable that prevents youth political participation. Putnam's theory of generational differences promulgated by declines overall in social capital provides the essential explication for understanding why so many you can choose not to participate in the political process. The generational theory does not attempt to ascribe a specific position or attitude to youthful voters. [...]
[...] While this theory of voter participation appears to be quite apt when examining the historical development of voting rights in the United States, the reality of this situation is that it does not provide a clear method for understanding voter participation in the late twentieth century. While one could effectively argue that social stratification in the late twentieth century still remained a pervasive issue for the development of various demographic populations, for the most part, barriers preventing political participation in the past have been effectively removed allowing all individuals regardless of race or gender to participate in the political process. [...]
[...] As more researchers attempt to identify the key reasons for a lack of a youth participation in politics the research that is provided by these authors only serves to further substantiate the idea that generational differences among various age groups in the United States continue to create barriers that significantly limit the participation of youthful voters. To illustrate this point, one only needs to consider the information provided by Flanagan and Sherrod in their examination of the voter participation in the United States. [...]
[...] Trends in Youth Political Participation In order to begin this investigation, it was first helpful to consider both voting trends and youth voting trends over the course of the last 50 years. Research collected from the Federal Election Commission of the United States (2005) demonstrates that since 1960 significant declines in voter participation have been recorded. Table 1 below provides a general overview of voter participation rates among all voting age individuals for presidential elections between the years of 1960 and 1996. [...]
[...] Although political and social leaders can not mitigate all of the problems that can arise in the context of child and adolescent development, they can you apply the umbrella of social capital as a means to facilitate youth political participation and decrease the overall disenfranchisement that occurs as a result of individual development. Social capital provides a clear method for understanding the way in which those that have been disenfranchised from the society can be effectively connected to the mainstream. [...]
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