The Emergence of Young Voters and Binary Thinking

Anders Klass ’22

Contributing Writer

Whether you voted or not in this election, as a young person attached to a college community, you were most likely bombarded with voting advertisements that became more and more rampant as the election approached. After all, record breaking voter turnout has been a focal point of discussion amongst outcomes from this election. Analysis has revealed an eight percent jump in young voters compared to the 2016 presidential election. However, the election year, coronavirus, and our attachment to technology has encouraged many to participate in this election, making these statistics consequently unsurprising to many young people.

Even though voting puts democracy to work, the magnitude and demographics of voter turnout this year emphasize how strongly polarized we are. During an election year, the two-party system certainly influences exploitation of labels and bias that burden the public’s internal perceptions of one another, complicating American unity. Add in a pandemic that compromises our awareness of the outside world and, subsequently, many Americans are left to build upon societal perceptions from the endless scope of the internet. I believe these challenging aspects to our democracy are frequently critiqued as isolated issues from one another. Elections fuel polarized politics, coronavirus separates us from society, and the internet constantly blurs fact from opinion which ultimately projects misconceptions onto the American public. 

Developing a political opinion requires an individual to value their connection to the government and its influence on society. For many young Americans just starting their lives, the circumstances leading to this election has put societal pressure on them to form a political opinion for the first time. Furthermore, as a young person who uses a smartphone, it is impossible to avoid the influx of redistributing media that has been accumulating since COVID struck. Plenty of new young voters are passionate to learn about politics and express their beliefs, however, identity politics too often absorbs the information we take in and guides our misperceptions. In all, young voters can be very susceptible to binary thinking promoted by overgeneralized headlines, audio bits, or sensational videos.

There has been a lot of turmoil in our country recently that should concern both sides of the political spectrum, and yet the one-sided rhetoric surrounding many concerns sucks up our attention. It is natural for new experiences or information to drive political opinions and a completely expected outcome from the course of this year. Unfortunately, perceiving in a politically binary fashion is efficient when it comes to dissecting all 2020 has to offer. In result, we have an even more negative sense of community and less constructive political discussion. When we become invested in politics, we must acknowledge how much there is to consider in constructing a strong opinion and accept we cannot be all-knowing. Allowing identity politics to dissuade us from exposing ourselves to different perspectives only divides us more. 

In time, this election will pass and someday quarantine restrictions will too. However, our sense of community with one another seems far from ready to even handle nonpartisan concerns— nevertheless ones defined by political parties. My advice to help ease America’s societal tensions involves disconnecting from our tendency to let binary thinking take over our thought process. There are plenty of issues going on and we will get nowhere unless we can understand each other’s viewpoints.

bclark

Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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