Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Editorial: Young people should engage in politics

Jeslyn Chen

The age of candidates in U.S. presidential elections was a topic of interest in the 2020 presidential election and is a pressing issue as the 2024 U.S. presidential election commences. Presumed Republican nominee Donald Trump is 77 years old, and current president Joe Biden holds the record for the oldest president in U.S. history at 81 years old. 

According to the Pew Research Center, the median age of members of the U.S. Congress is 57.8 years old, and the median age of Senators sits at 65.4 years old. When comparing these numbers to the median age of US citizens (38.9), the scope of the underrepresentation of younger populations within the government is evident. 

This underrepresentation can be attributed, in part, to the low proportion of Millennial and Generation Z voters compared to the proportion of Generation X and Baby Boomer voters. 

The Brookings Institution highlights that younger voters, particularly those under 45, are increasingly influential in elections and have different priorities from older generations. 

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However, according to NPR, only 27% of people under age 30 voted in the 2022 midterms in comparison to 60% of Generation X and 67% of Baby Boomer voters. 

As highlighted by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, among young people who didn’t vote, more than one in five said they did not have enough information. In addition, a separate article by CIRCLE reports that youth are passionate about issues and often want to engage in the political process, but they frequently face barriers to participation. 

The lack of information on politics among youth is confirmed by a Verde survey conducted on 390 Palo Alto High School students across all 4 grades, where 69% of Paly respondents said that if they could vote, they would be unsure about which candidate they would choose to represent the 16th congressional district and 78% reported being uncertain when it came to voting for the Senate seat.

In addition, 16% reported they would choose not to vote at all in the November presidential election.

Many are quick to criticize schools for the lack of education on politics and current news provided to students; however, given constraints such as budget and curriculum limitations, blame for this issue cannot be placed solely on educators.

We instead encourage every student to take the initiative in learning about the political landscape of our nation and to vote when they are eligible, even if they do not support every single view a candidate holds. Steps students can take to better their understanding of the political landscape and political candidates include staying informed through reliable news sources like Ballotpedia and Cal Matters, attending local committee meetings, and registering to vote. 

By engaging in the political process, young people can help tackle critical issues such as climate change, where the effects may not be fully realized in Biden or Trump’s lifetime but will impact our generation. If we desire change for issues that will affect our future, we must push for representation in the government.