Young People Probably Won’t Vote Next Week

Is Boston on the precipice of record low turnout for a general election?

Nobody is going to vote next Tuesday.

Ok, well, next to nobody, according to a review by former Boston City Councilor Larry DiCara in Commonwealth.

DiCara, along with two researchers, reviewed voting numbers going back to 1985 and found a troubling trend for civic participation boosters: While Boston’s population is increasing, participation in off-year elections is declining. Why?

The changing face of the city certainly has something to do with it. With one third of Boston’s population in the crucial 20-34 age range, Boston is one of the youngest cities in America. Of course, with youth comes transience and disinterest in politics, particularly at the local and state level. An earlier review by Commonwealth found over 100,000 people only turn out to vote every four years for presidential elections in Boston. This huge group tends to be younger and more educated than the electorate that votes in municipal elections. Even though the city has a median age of 31, the typical voter is much, much older.

“We believe that in coming November city election, the average voter in the nation’s youngest city will be between 65 and 70,” said DiCara.

Yikes. Or, maybe not.

If people are merely passing through Boston like it’s a pit stop on their journey through life and have minimal interest in the future of the city, why would anyone want them to pay attention and vote on local issues, anyway? It’s not a bad thing that people who are invested in the community or plan on putting down roots are the ones who pay attention to local politics.

Additionally, there’s a barrier to entry for local politics that does not exist in the same way at the national or even state level. It’s easy to have opinions about abortion or war or the social media outrage of the day, but local zoning ordinances? Zzzzz. What are linkage fees, anyway? In 2015, it appears all politics is national and all governing is local.

The outlook for the hopes of civic participation boosters like DiCara and others is grim. The long trend of young people not participating in American democracy does not appear to be changing any time soon.