The Voting Habits Of Young Adults

This story was written by John Sakata, Daily Titan
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-New York) would love to be Sheena Scypion's friend on Myspace but the 19-year-old business major has decided against adding the presidential candidate. Scypion did not vote in the 2006 elections, the first year she was eligible to vote.

Although she said she was planning on voting in the 2008 presidential elections, she has not settled on one candidate. That will be a decision for anther day.

Sitting in a chair with half a sandwich and a bag of chips on her lap, Scypion, a member of Associate Students Inc., has her focus on grading scholarships.

"It's probably because it's not very appealing to them," she said, on why more young adults don not vote.

Despite incorporating MySpace, Facebook and a veritable cornucopia of tactics to recruit young voters, attracting the attention of young voters remains a daunting, if not seemingly insurmountable, challenge for politicians.

Low turnout rates of young adults for elections is nothing new. On the national level, the 2000 U.S. Census reported that 36 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted that year - 14 percent less than 25 to 34-year-olds and half of the 72 percent clip of 65 to 74-year-olds.

The 2004 U.S. Census reported that 47 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted in the election pitting John Kerry and George W. Bush - still 9 percent less than 25 to 34-year-olds and significantly behind those 65 years old and older, with 71 percent represented.

Although overall college students tend to tilt toward Democrats, their loyalties on politics are widely shaped by current events - juxtaposed with older voters who will have grown increasingly entrenched in their political views over time, political science Professor Matthew Jarvis said. Young voters offer the political process something no other age group does - change.

"The youth vote can be important because the stable and the predictable [older voters] give you your baseline," Jarvis said. "The youth vote by their very nature represents change from the status quo, or at least they represent potential change."

Speculation over why turnout from young adults is so low varies greatly.

Jarvis said the results could be attributed to older voters familiarity with the bureaucracy Voting requires the patience to stand in line and the ability to discern and fill out the appropriate paperwork to register before.

Political science professor Steven Stambough attributes the lack of activism to another cause: stability.

"They are not in as stable of a community," Stambough said. "Most of them have not settled with a family, bought a house yet, settled in a career. This is the time of life, 18 to 24-year-olds, where young people are interested in all kinds of different things and are still trying to figure out what they are going to do with the rest of their lives."

Going into the 2008 presidential elections, the impact young voters will have is open to discussion.

Since 2004, voting from young adults has been on the rise. Eleven percent of more young adults voted in 2004 compared to 2000. Turnout for congressional elections are significantly less than presidential elections but voting from 18 to 29-year-olds increased from 11 percent in 2002 to 13 percent in 2004, according to the not-for-profit group Rock the Vote.

Although the percentage increase is small, the hike in 2006 occurred despite a smaller share of the electorate being 18 to 29-year-olds, according to the Web site.

While "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and "The Colbert Report" have spiked interest among young adults, Stambough attributes the higher voter turnout to the war in Iraq.

"There has always been something out there targeting people of a certain age in popular culture [to vote]," Stambogh said. "Making that link into actual practices is difficult sometimes. The war does that."

A strong presence from young voters similar to the last presidential elections would likely provide a strong boost for democrats.

Jarvis said recent events - the war in Iraq and dissatisfaction with Bush's policies - have shifted young voter's alliances, where a decade ago a large number of young voters were aligned with Republican sentiments.

Dissatisfaction in the early 90s over how democrats handled government were responsible for framing young adult opinion.

Considering Bush carries approval ratings that regularly hover in the low 30s among the general populace and the widespread discontent with Republicans among independent voters, according to polling data, Jarvis gives democrats the edge going into 2008.

"But if the democrats nominate someone that is not quite so good or the republicans nominate someone that is better, it may end up providing the margin of difference," Jarvis said.

A high turnout from young voters in early primary states could generate enough attention from the media to give a candidate some invaluable momentum, Jarvis said.

The results from 2004 turned around a near-continuous decline in young voter participation since 1972, when participation was 52 percent, according to Youngvoterstrategies.org.

Jarvis said the importance of the youth vote might be overblown by newscasters who remember the effects college student participation had during the 1970s. He said because young voters are not overwhelmingly divided in party alliance, their effect on the upcoming elections might not be very large.

"It would be like discriminating against Eskimos and you let them vote," Jarvis said. "There are not very many Eskimos. It might not seem like this to you, but there are just not that many 18 to 24 year olds."

Although politicians might address different issues if young adults did vote, Stambough said the effects of young adults not voting are no different from everybody else not voting.

"The same is lost as everybody else not turning out," Stambough said. "Their voice is getting taken out of the political process."
© 2007 Daily Titan via U-WIRE
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