(LIN) — It's no secret that young voters aren't the most active voters.
After the 2008 election, a study showed that although voters ages 18 to 29 comprised 21 percent of the eligible voter population, they only made up 17 percent of the actual voter population. Put a different way, if this age group had voted at the same rate as those 30 and older, 7 million more people would have voted in the 2008 election.
Young Americans have the most to lose (and gain) at the hands of the next president. How they choose to vote has a direct impact on the lives of their future spouses, families and professional lives.
If you are a young American, regardless of how jaded you may be from election season, here are five things you should care about:
U.S. Supreme Court – Internet censorship, abortion and gay marriage are not just topics to bring up at the Thanksgiving table. They are issues whose future is shaped by the Supreme Court. Four Supreme Court justices are now in their 70s. Add four years to their age now and there could be a chance to see four new justices in the next four years. The next president will appoint these new justices who have the ability to change the way we live our daily lives.
Federal deficit – If young voters don't start talking about this now, the future will look even more grim. For the fourth straight year, the U.S. federal deficit has topped $1 trillion. This number will only grow if our country continues to fund war, bailouts and government subsidies like Medicare and Social Security. If you'd like to keep more of your paycheck and not be taxed to fund programs you don't support, pay attention to that $1 trillion number and find out how it grows to that size.
Women's rights – Even if you have a Y chromosome, pay attention. Income equality and employer health insurance will affect your pocketbook if you plan on getting married or building a family. A report released Oct. 18 says women who worked full time had median weekly earnings of $685, which is 82.7 percent of the $828 of men. Even if you don't have a serious boyfriend or girlfriend right now, a lot can happen between now and the next election.
Foreign policy – Want wars to end? Tired of being apart from loved ones who serve our country here and on foreign soil for causes you don't support? Conflicts don't arise out of thin air. The United States' relationship now with Libya, Iran, Israel and other countries affects actions later. It is crucial to have a president who not only understands these implications, but has the knowledge to appoint leaders who have the tact to handle issues that arise with not just our enemies, but also with our allies.
Energy – As you are read this on the screen of your choice, the energy needed to power your device and where it comes from affects jobs and the environment. Learn what candidates support alternative energy and measure that against the numbers. Do their energy plans make economic sense, or will they end up costing us later? Sure, gas prices are a drag. Instead of complaining about it, though, start talking about solutions, and learn which candidates on a local, state and national level align with your views.
If you are a young American, candidates running for office aren't going to beat down your door to talk to you about these things. They are instead focusing their valuable time vying for the votes they can count on from more reliable constituents.
Don't perpetuate this cycle. Demand answers from those running for office and take a stand now for issues that matter.
Our future depends on it.
Gen Y is a weekly opinion piece covering issues that matter most to younger, influential voters through their late 30s. Jessica O. Swink, a 20-something, is the digital political producer for LIN Media and contributing editor to onPolitix.