Ireland Shows a Wave of Young Political Candidates: Why Other Nations Should Follow Suit


Teagan Mayr04/07/2024

Last Thursday the United States held its first general election debate, attended by assumed nominees former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. For the first time in years, the American people were able to agree on something — both candidates’ performance was lackluster. Despite low approval ratings for both candidates and general mistrust from citizens, they became the assumed presidential nominees as both political parties failed to put up a new face. 




The United States tends to have low voter turnout for presidential primaries, but 2024 was one of the lowest turnouts in U.S. history — one in ten eligible voters cast a ballot for the presidential primaries. Meaning that the voice of the electorate wasn’t represented and won’t be represented in the candidates for the 2024 general election due to low voter turnout.


As a political science student at Penn State, I’m passionate about civic engagement but even I was almost discouraged from voting. This is the first presidential election where I can vote, a time that’s supposed to be exciting for young Americans but yet I’m left with a feeling of dread and disappointment. The presumed nominees simply don’t represent my beliefs and I feel like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place with two bad candidates. 


Former President Donald Trump is 78 years old and President Joe Biden is 81 years old, it feels like both candidates are out of touch with the reality for young people. That's why when I arrived in Dublin a month ago, I was surprised to see lampposts covered by young political candidates. I didn’t know anything about these candidates yet I trusted these strangers to handle political affairs more than seasoned politicians in the United States. 


According to a report from Maynooth University, over 80 candidates were running in local elections between the ages of 18 and 29, with even more candidates under the age of 35.  It’s more difficult for young people to get elected regardless of region, this wave of young candidates shows a pathway to more youth representation in government. 


The median age of global leaders is increasing, as of 2024 the median age of world leaders is 62 according to the New York Times — U.S. presidential candidates are at least 16 years older than this. In comparison, the median age of legislators in Ireland is 48.5 while the median age of legislators in the United States is 57.97 in comparison to the global median age of 31.0 in 2020. This gap is more noticeable in the United States than in Ireland, showing a great age detachment between American representatives and their constituents. 


As civic engagement is declining in the U.S. due to a lack of political trust, it’s time for the United States to take a page out of Ireland’s book and create a pathway for young political leaders. 



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Teagan Mayr

Teagan headshot

Teagan is an intern at TASC and a fourth-year student studying Political Science and Broadcast Journalism at Pennsylvania State University. She is pursuing minors in Civic and Community Engagement as well as Public Policy Leadership Across Sectors. At home, Teagan is a research assistant for the Center of Social Data Analytics at Penn State. She has special interests in public opinion and social equity. 



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