Disengaged, Disinterested and Disinclined: Primary Voting Among in 20- 35-Year-Olds

voteThis story is not a new one. Young people are drifting from the political system, and the establishment is blindly scrambling to stop the decay. But the response from the mainstream frequently leans toward patronizing and slander rather than leveling and understanding.

All that is a symptomatic consequence of a much larger, scarier truth. In the eyes of many under 35, while they work themselves ragged, the system is slowly rumbling to an undignified halt. A pigeon splat falling onto the pavement. A three-legged table in a skip. The analogies are that more intense when talking about state primaries. The United States is rare among nations that it allows its voters to elect the candidates that proceed to the election proper, yet these theoretically important political charades attract far fewer people than they really should.

Determined to uncover the ugly truth behind voter disengagement among the young people of Rhode Island, I got into bed with the grimy, anti-romance that is their relationship with politics and let myself go. What follows are the anonymous stories of young people who did not vote on September 12. Names are made up.

Gee, 23, Providence, “I did not vote, and because it’s a Democratic [sic.] state. There’s also the feeling of my vote not making a difference, which is the feeling of voting for a president, since votes literally don’t matter for that. In the future when we can vote with blockchains or from our phones, I 100% would vote each time.”

 Lou, 31, Coventry: “I’m not registered. But if I was, I would probably not vote. Nothing ever changes, and with Trump being the man that comes after Obama, that’s one f—ed-up system. Man … remember hope?!”

Samantha, 34, Warwick: “I did not vote! At this point in my life I pay absolutely no attention to any of it, so I don’t want to make a vote on something I have no knowledge of. I have no time to even think about politics, I couldn’t even tell you the last time I sat and watched TV.”

Justine, 28, Providence: “It’s a time thing. Politics don’t entice me. I also feel that I don’t gain anything from learning about it. I know the general stuff, but it’s too much. And as far as voting I don’t feel like it affects me… I could be wrong.

“After Trump became president and seeing how it’s a negative for me, I just don’t feel like it has anything to do with how I live my life. But to be honest, that feeling is more so with local politics.”

Becca, 25, Cranston: “I always vote … this is the first time I haven’t since I turned 18, and that is because I had my child plus two others to look after that day. I feel dirty!”

Stella, 31, Warwick: “I really don’t know enough about it. The date wasn’t well advertised. Also, I don’t know what it would take for the candidates to make an impact on me. Politicians love fliers and billboards, but there are so many of them in our lives they just become part of the incessant noise.

“I also don’t know where to find the information. We aren’t set up for success at school to understand how to research and evaluate all the spin.

“What I need is something that gets in my face, but, again, advertising is so aggressive that I am likely to intentionally ignore it. The problem is really a much bigger one. Our country is one never-ending commercial break.”

Suzanne, 32, East Greenwich: “I worked 30 hours straight that day … because, ‘Merica. In the past, I’ve left work for a few minutes to vote, but only was because the polling station was right next to my work. I work in a group home, it’s never really been discussed and not really possible to leave unless you have enough staffing or can take someone with you.”

Jorge, 24, Providence: “I would have gone if my roommate had gone.”

Steve, 25, Pawtucket: “I have work. Period. I know we are meant to be given time off, but you don’t always get what you want. Make a mobile ballot and bring it to my shop. I’ll vote on my lunch break and then it can go onto the next place.”

Alexander, 31, Warwick: “The candidates do little to distinguish themselves from the next. They’re all teeth, hair and scratched record bluster. There’s a fakeness to them, an insincerity, that I just can’t trust. Rather anarchy than more of the same tedious lies. I’m over all of it.”

Amadeus spoke to 35 individuals, of whom 12 voted. Of the 23 who did not, 10 agreed to have their stories published anonymously in Motif.  


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