The U.S. government shutdown that furloughed 800,000 workers, closed memorials and museums for half of October and cost the economy $24 billion has also highlighted a national decrease in student interest and faith in politics and government.
The amount of students getting involved in politics has been declining over the last few years. According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, the voter turnout rate of young people ages 18 to 29 declined 6 percent from the 2008 to the 2012 presidential elections, and fewer than half think it is everyone’s duty to vote. In 2011, an estimated 70 percent of college students said that they did not consider themselves politically engaged or active, according to Knowledge Networks on behalf of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics.
A recent article by USA Today said that the numerous political stalemates this year have many college students frustrated and is causing a growing distance between students and activity in government.
“Unfortunately as young people, we are still learning about our government system by the books, how it is supposed to run and how the system is supposed to be structured,” said Gabbi Reimann, a junior political science and history major. “Nowadays, while we are learning this, because of this flaws in our government can be easily seen and when situations like the government shutdown arise, young Americans nationally, I’m sure, feel hopeless.”
In June of this year, the Gallup polling agency reported that only 10 percent of young people had confidence in Congress, the worst Gallup has ever found for any institution it has measured since 1973.
Junior Matthew Findel agreed that a divided government in Congress gets little work done, which angers citizens.
“They get disengaged from politics when government is not working,” Findel said. “Especially since government has made policies that hurt students. For example, interest on student loans.”
The government shutdown affected a variety of college services across the country, including pausing sexual assault investigations on campuses, temporarily canceling classes and sending students home at military academies, halting nonessential types of scientific research, not updating scholarly resources and limiting student veteran services, according to USA Today.
“This whole government shutdown proved that many of our representatives are not taking the views, needs and desires of their constituents into consideration when making such bold moves in Congress,” Reimann said. “Like shutting down the government and refusing to raise the debt ceiling, but instead let their personal bias control what happens in the lives of millions of American people.”
Some students said that politics are just a dry subject now more than ever with everything that’s going on in Washington.
“I think most young people don’t care about politics in general,” senior Darcy Abramson said. “I find it boring and the only time I pay attention to politics is if I have a class that gives current events quizzes.”
Junior Chris Huckabone said that he does not pay much attention to politics because the schoolwork and stress that college brings keeps him too busy.
“I just don’t have a trust for the government,” Huckabone said.
Some students said the media outlets pushed the government shutdown a lot and sometimes overdue it, resulting in a loss of audience.
“I see the problems my fellow Americans face and the fact that we have to continue to struggle every day, while representatives in Washington D.C. mess around and still get paid large sums of money to do nothing but argue internally, is ridiculous,” Reimann said. “It just makes me want to turn off the news and do something else, which is a problem because people should be informed of what is happening in their country.”
Some students said that paying attention to politics is important, but not worthy of too much attention.
“If we don’t pay attention to what is going on, we are going to experience the same problems when our generations in control of this nation down the road,” Reimann said. “It is important that we watch, learn and educate ourselves on the problems so we can fix them and understand them. A lot of young adults think these problems are going to just ‘go away,’ they aren’t, and our generation is going to have to take the backlash.”
Abramson said that young people do not have enough knowledge or experience in to make reasonable judgments and decisions about political topics.
“Young people should have fun and focus on other things and leave the boring politics to the adults that care about it,” Abramson said.
There is some concern that the falling interest could continue into the next few years.
Huckabone said he thinks the government is the reason a lot of students are able to afford college through financial aid and it controls more of students’ futures than they may realize.
“Even though we don’t regard them as highly as we might’ve at one point, we should still pay attention to their actions because one way or another, they still effect whether we get jobs, they effect our trades and economies, which in turn can effect the trades we might get into when we get out of here,” Huckabone said.
Reimann said the college students of today will someday be the adults that have a chance to change politics and discontinue to the government gridlock.
“If we do not become a politically active generation, we run the risk of repeating history,” Reimann said. “By becoming politically active, we educate ourselves on the problems in our society and we can work to alleviate those problems constitutionally. If we do not, there will be no evolution in bettering this country and we will be stuck in a political biased, selfish stalemate like the one we are in right now. If we do not become involved in politics, our world politically will be no better off than the world is right now.”