18 Year Old Suffrage

Lowering the Voting Age: Propaganda and Protests

The photograph on the left was a taken in Danang, Vietnam in 1965. It is of a young man who was old enough to fight in the war, but he was not old enough to vote for the ways in which the United States military operated. This photo was used as a propaganda technique to sway American citizens to support the 26th amendment.

The photograph on right depicts young voters marching to get the voting age reduced from 21 to 18.  This photograph was taken by Tom Barlet in 1969 in Seattle, Washington



  1. How do you think people reacted to the photo of the young Vietnam marine? Why do you think they reacted in such a way?
  2. Males : Put yourself in 1969 – how would you react if you were old enough to be drafted, but not old enough vote on decisions that the United States Department of Defense made?
  3. Females: Put yourself in 1969 – How would you react if your 18 to 20 year old family member was drafted and sent to Vietnam, but he had no say in the United States defense system because he was not old enough to vote?
  4. While the photographs are very different, what is similar about the two?


President Nixon on the 26th Amendment 

On July 5, 1971, the 26th Amendment was ratified. In the turmoil surrounding the unpopular Vietnam War, lowering the national voting age became a controversial topic. Many argued that those old enough to be drafted for military service, should be able to exercise the right to vote, the 26th Amendment was ratified in record time. Taking a little over two months, thirty-eight states had ratified the 26th amendment. Following Ohio’s ratification, President Nixon made the remarks below about the importance of the 26th amendment.

President Nixon quote after learning of the states’ rapid ratification of the 26th Amendment.

“The ratification of this Amendment has been accomplished in the shortest time of any amendment in American history. This fact affirms our Nation’s confidence in its youth and its trust in their responsibility. It also reinforces our young people’s dedication to a system of government whose Constitution permits ordered change.”

President Nixon quote about the 26th amendment.

“Some 11 million young men and women who have participated in the life of our Nation through their work, their studies, and their sacrifices for its defense, are now to be fully included in the electoral process of our country.”


  1. What kind of source are the documents above (primary or secondary)? How do you know?
  2. Who made the statements above?
  3. When were the quotes above made?
  4. Why do you think the 26th amendment was ratified so quickly?
  5. In your opinion, did propaganda such as the 18-year-old Vietnam soldier, and protests from youth voters sway United States citizens to support the ratification of the 26th amendment? Explain.


Newsweek: How Will the Youth Vote?

Newsweek is an American news magazine established in 1933 to current day. In 1971, the United States Government lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 with the 26th Amendment. This allowed for approximately 11 million new voters in State and Federal elections.



  1. What is the name of the magazine?
  2. When was the magazine first published?
  3. What is the title of the survey that the magazine published?
  4. Why do you think that Newsweek chose to feature the 18 year old vote as the cover page of the magazine?