During the school year, USC students can engage in the news cycle as much or as little as they choose by attending political panels, discussing current events in class, speaking directly with professors or becoming involved in one of the many campus groups devoted to civic engagement.
But what do these students do outside of USC? What about after graduation? It’s understandable to be overwhelmed by the multitude of political conversations. It’s a lot like being in a crowded room at a party: Everyone is speaking loudly, and everyone has a lot to say, but why is it imperative that we keep listening?
Here’s why: Serious issues like climate change, immigration, healthcare, gun control and prison reform are about to become problems specific to Generation Z. This generation has a chance to make tangible changes before these problems become irreversible. It has a hand in reshaping the political fabric of our country through voting.
Fortunately, many young voters are passionate and invested in civic engagement and thus invested in their futures. The most impressive statistics came from the 2018 midterms, which were indicative of just how much the youth vote can influence pivotal races across the country. Even though only 31% of eligible 18- to 29-year-olds participated, it was the highest midterm showing in 25 years. It also resulted in the most racially and ethnically diverse Congress in history. Given the high engagement level for 2018, 2020 is predicted to include more young voters than ever before. This is especially noteworthy because they will comprise 40% of the electorate. Young voters do have power, and their actions are already changing the political landscape.
In the short term, checking out or stepping away may not be a big deal, but it’s simply not enough to scroll through Twitter or Instagram for news every now and then. Social media is becoming the primary news source for younger voters, with most of Gen Z relying on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Social media provides a quick take on the news, but it’s difficult to find clarity in a landscape where viewers are constantly bombarded with information.
We need young voters who are informed enough to make educated decisions in the voting booths. This year, VoteSC, a new nonpartisan campus organization dedicated to registering students to vote and demystifying the registration process, launched a comprehensive website and social media campaign to keep students informed, educated and ready for the 2020 election. Last year, the organization engaged over 2,000 students in the registration process. Sept. 24 marks one of its largest efforts this fall: National Voter Registration Day. In collaboration with Undergraduate Student Government, the Political Student Assembly, USC Dornsife Center for the Political Future and Unruh Associates, VoteSC will be on Trousdale from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., encouraging students to register and ask questions about the voting process.
Clearly, there are politically active organizations doing important work on campus to promote civic engagement. PSA, Center for the Political Future and Unruh Institute are active throughout the school year, putting on informational events, organizing voter registration drives and providing opportunities for community involvement on and off campus. Additionally, there are many options for students not involved in these organizations to stay engaged year round.
USG provides students with free digital subscriptions to The New York Times, offering a comprehensive and well-researched account of the news. For those hoping for a trimmed down version of The New York Times, there’s “The Daily,” a short podcast diving into single subjects with more detail, or the “Morning Briefing,” a morning newsletter in highlights of important issues. “TheSkimm” is a great daily newsletter service presenting readers with a basic understanding of both news and the election cycle. At USC, Annenberg Media’s “The Rundown” provides an overview of the week’s biggest stories, easily watchable on your phone or readable in a weekly newsletter.
As the school year progresses, students are faced with a new task: finding an online service, a newspaper, an account, a podcast, a show or a website they trust. With one of our country’s most divisive elections barreling toward us, it’s time to arm ourselves with knowledge and vote. The ballot box is one of our most powerful tools.