ADAM KELLY, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
This year’s midterm elections had the highest voter turnout in history with an estimated 113 million votes, and yet only 32 percent of Americans are able to name the three branches of government. College students, in particular, continue to participate in political activism, but how informed are they on the issues they stand for?
This statistic was pulled from the most recent survey from the Annenburg Public Policy Center and makes a statement toward American’s knowledge of the fundamentals of government.
College-aged people were included in this survey which could indicate how much information students are retaining in school. Education varies across the country, meaning some schools place more emphasis on teaching civics and history than others.
This also means a handful of students will graduate high school well-informed and educated while the rest of the pack forget what they’ve learned and not show any interest in understanding the subject.
It’s easy to say you don’t want to get involved when you have no interest in politics. Headlines in the news on all platforms of media use tactics to scare viewers, readers and listeners into believing the information presented at face value without looking at the details.
News articles posted on Twitter use clickbait titles and pictures to draw the reader in and retweet the post, causing more engagement even if no one has read what the article is about.
This tactic is one of the things that turns students away from having any interest in learning more about what’s going on when everything in the news sounds dreadful.
Politics isn’t meant for everyone, but understanding what’s going on in local, national and universal news should be.
Sophomore education major Kelsea Hicks said, “I hate all of the lying that is involved with politics. Today, it is more about trying to prove that you are right rather than trying to find the truth and making choices that are best for the country as a whole.”
Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, during his 2016 presidential campaign said, “Climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.” There is no correlation between the two subjects and this quote is an example of politicians lying to get their point across.
Not everyone is meant to become a politician or do work in government. Knowing what’s happening in the news, though, will broaden your perspective on certain topics and enable you to join the conversation with other people.
Just like forming any new habit, it takes baby steps to make it perpetual. A simple way to do this is to start reading up on current news. A popular newsletter with millennials is “Morning Brew,” an online newsletter that covers business, technology and political segments.
With over 700,000 subscribers, it’s constantly growing and continues to look for unique ways to simplify the news to its readers. Now you can take a sip of coffee while you get an overview of the stock market from your phone.
Find a topic or issue that interests you or ties into something you’re already familiar with. Take the time to do some research. Trace back where these issues stemmed from and figure out both sides of the argument.
For example, you may already have an opinion on the pro-life, pro-choice argument. Research organizations like Planned Parenthood and the origins of reproductive health care. Figure out where both sides are coming from before choosing sides. Doing this encourages objective thought and will enable you to counter people in conversation.
An informed opinion is more likely to change someone’s mind than yelling what you believe is ‘your truth.’
When you form the habit of reading about current news, it’s important to get your information from an objective standpoint. Sift through news articles and you’ll discover how biased some writers can be despite the fact journalism should be strictly objective.
There are several charts depicting levels of bias on both sides, but a popular guide by the Ideological Group states that the Wall Street Journal (minus opinions and editorials) is the most neutral, nonpartisan source of news. The Economist, BBC and Google News rank just below it.
It’s up to you to decide what you want to believe, but it gets easier to decipher objective news after reading through several biased articles. There’s an importance to being informed on all issues and topics, but it’s even more important to focus on issues that matter to you and get more involved with them.
Freshman business major Josh Byram said, “Be open-minded, get involved in local elections and be active on Twitter. Because 90 percent politics, it’s a perfect platform to express your views and get involved.”
Byram has taken his own advice and has been involved in state campaigns as well as staying active on Twitter.
Continue to challenge your mind by constantly reading the news and discussing politics with other people. It won’t always be sunshine and rainbows in the papers, but being apart of the 32 percent (and knowing even more) places you another step forward into making America a nation united, not divided.