In 1919, young men were becoming more active in politics. Is that true in 2019? Even if so, they still have perhaps the lowest political activity rate of any age/gender combo.
Only 33% of men aged 18-29 voted in the 2018 midterm election, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Higher percentages of women in that age group voted (38%), and a far higher percentage of men aged 65+ voted (68%).
The consequences were literally world-changing. Donald Trump very likely would have lost if most the young men who claimed to strongly oppose him — which numbered millions — actually voted for Hillary Clinton. Instead, millions of young men who professed to dislike both Trump and Clinton didn’t vote at all.
(And even a not-insubstantial number of young men who did vote cast ballots for third party candidates Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, or write-in votes for Bernie Sanders or Ron Paul.)
This 1919 article doesn’t have similar turnout data, since such statistics were barely collected back then, if at all. It does include this explanatory quote from Republican National Committee Chair Will H. Hays, who tied the rise of young men in politics to the end of World War I the year prior:
It is a natural aftermath of war. During the last few years millions who hitherto thought that they could do nothing for their country have given generously themselves, their time, their money. It has been a revalation.
Millions of boys realized that the future of the nation was in their keeping. Those who had never thought of any of the serious things which make up America were suddenly brought face to face with reality. As they crossed the continent, as they crowded into ships to make the perilous journey overseas, as they worked and fought in France and as they rested they thought in unfamiliar ways of their country.
It seems to me that the spirit which was awakened under the stimulation of the conflict will not be content to forget the service of that high season. Young men will not forget. The nation which had the supreme demand upon them in time of war still wants their service and they know it. And they know their country needs this service.
Most interesting to modern eyes is FDR being listed in an accompanying photo compilation of young men in politics. Roosevelt, then the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, was 37 at the time. Today, we tend to think of him more as the grandfatherly figure he had become by his presidency, particularly his 1940s-era third and fourth terms when he led the nation during WWII.
Young Men More and More Active in Politics: Will H. Hays, Republican National Chairman, Says Stern Duty of Taking Part in Public Life Confronts Youth of the Country
Published: Sunday, December 28, 1919