Daily Video

August 1, 2016

Democratic and Republican conventions through the eyes of young voters

Essential question

How important is it for young people to get involved in the political process?

PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs (SRL) traveled to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions to find a diverse range of youth perspectives on this year’s presidential election.

College affordability, access to quality education and race all emerged as major concerns for today’s youth.

While many first-time voters admitted they felt little enthusiasm for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, others said they were excited to take part in this year’s election.

“Not all of my friends but some of them have said that they’re not voting in the election, which kind of makes me a little bit mad, because I think if you have that right, you should vote,” said 18-year old Jessica Jones in downtown Cleveland.

At the DNC in Philadelphia, 18-year old Iowa delegate Sruthi Palaniappan, said young Americans can’t take the opportunity for granted. “In so many countries, they are still fighting for that right, and we are given that privilege to voice our concerns by voting,” Palaniappan said.

The team visited Boys & Girls Clubs, summer camps and political seminars, and were there on the final night of each convention to see the nominees accept their party’s nomination.

Key terms

youth vote — a political term often used to describe 18 to 24-year-olds and their voting habits

millennial — the demographic cohort consisting of individuals born between 1982 and 2004, according to researchers Neil Howe and William Strauss

ideology — a system of ideas, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. What percentage of young people (18-24) vote?
  2. What issues are important to you?
  3. Is it important for young people to be involved in the political process?
  4. Why do you think some people choose not to vote?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Why do you think voter turnout among young people is very low? Have there been exceptions to this?
  2. Do you think young people get blamed unfairly for voter apathy more than other groups? Explain.
  3. In the Democratic convention video, Sophia Gallagher, 17, said that young people care less about ideology in this election. Do you agree? Why or why not?
  4. Katie Frost, 24, featured in the RNC video here, said, “I think we have a lot of time and energy at this stage in our life, and we need to use it to do something that really matters.” What can youth voices bring to the democratic process?
Extension activities:

Roundtable discussion: Keep the conversation going! Ask your students what voting means to them. Do students see voting as a key part of democracy? Would more young people become involved in politics if the voting age were lowered to 16? Do students identify with a particular political party? How much does a student’s family influence how they think politically? Would they vote for the same presidential candidate as their parents/guardian?

Read and discuss the PBS NewsHour story ‘For these young Republicans, student debt and jobs are top priority.’ What issues matter to your students? Do students see certain issues as belonging to one party over the other? Where do they rank student debt and jobs as issues they care about? Why do students think young voters (ages 18-24) turn out in such low numbers to vote? What needs to change to help improve the youth voter turnout?

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