The election has now passed and once again we heard stories about the youth vote and how young Americans vote at low levels.

In Texas, this is true just as it is across the country. Young Texans report much lower rates of engagement with elections.

If we are going to address this problem, we first need to understand the driving force behind it. And perhaps more importantly, we need to understand what we can do to increase voting numbers among millennials for the next election in 2020.

Simply put, we need to do a better job of teaching our younger voters that their votes do indeed matter.

The Texas Media and Society Survey recently asked approximately 1,000 Texans about their engagement with the political system, and the answers we received show the younger generation does not place a high importance on voting.

The differences between Texan millennials and those age 30 and older are stark. Millennials are less likely to register to vote, less likely to vote in primaries and less likely to vote in presidential elections. But this is not some inherent trait of youth.

Registration is frequently listed as a culprit for low youth turnout, but that does not get to the heart of the problem. Our survey found 77 percent of those older than 30 are registered to vote versus 62 percent of those who are ages 18-29.

But when it comes to voting in the primary or the presidential election, the gap grows: only 52 percent of millennials said they would vote in this presidential election versus 71 percent for those 30 and older. The numbers are far worse for voting in the primary.

The problem is that young people do not view engagement with the political process as part of their duty as citizens. In fact, our survey found that although 84 percent of those 30 and older believe to be a good citizen, it is important to vote, only 74 percent of those ages 18-29 see it as important.

Why does the younger generation place less importance on voting and engagement in politics? One reason is a lack of efficacy by younger Texans. If you do not know how to make good voting decisions or do not believe your vote will matter, then it is natural to place less importance on voting.

We asked respondents to agree or disagree with the following statement: “I don’t know enough to cast an informed vote.” Only 54 percent of those 18-29 disagreed with the statement, while 61 percent of those 30 and older disagreed.

This is an area where voter information guides, better journalism and better civics education could lead to changes in how millennials interact with politics. We cannot expect young voters to process civic information only every other November. This process must be continual and better integrated into the institutions we rely on to inform and educate us. It is on our schools, our government and our media professionals to provide them with better and more accessible information.

We asked questions about respondents’ views of how the political system will respond to their voiced opinions on politics. Less than half of those in the younger group agreed that their votes mattered, while nearly 60 percent of those 30 and older agreed their votes mattered. This gap grows further when asking whether “people like me” have a say in government. Nearly 50 percent of those 30 and older think they have a say in government, but only 31 percent of millennials believe they have a say in government.

If less than a third of millennials believe they have a say in government, then it is no surprise they vote at such a low level.

To some degree it is a chicken and egg problem. If more young people would vote, then politicians would be forced to focus on topics millennials find important. But, if they have never seen politicians solve issues important to their generation, why should they take the time to engage the political system?

Here again, civic education can help. More young people need to understand that the power of their votes only works when they vote. They cannot wait for politicians to choose to listen. Young voters need to force them to listen. And we need to help by educating them to develop a habit of engagement.

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above guest column shows young people at a rally in Colorado. Photo: Evan Semon/Reuters.