Will Young Voters Ditch the Midterms?

Turnout is usually a key factor in elections, and everyone's wondering this year what young voters will do. Two years ago, they helped get Barack Obama elected president as more than half the eligible voters under 30 went to the polls - the third highest percentage since 18-year-olds got the vote about 22 million people.

But according to a Harvard poll, only 27 percent of the under-30s say they'll definitely vote in this year's midterms. CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric traveled to Boston to speak with young voters about what's on their minds -- and what will drive them to the polls -- in the latest installment of "American Voices."




They are passionate and they are vocal. And for many candidates this year, rediscovering that fountain of youthful voters will be critical to victory.

Couric: "What are you most worried about when it comes to issues?"

Emerson College student Brittani Haywood said, "College accessibility and making college more affordable for everyone, because I think that at this point in time an education is not something that we aspire to. It's something that's needed in so many fields for so many difference positions right now."

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These days, higher education doesn't guarantee a job. The class of 2010 faced the worst jobs market in more than 25 years.

"As a nursing student, I worked really hard for four years," said Adam Clay. "So I walked out and I got a job. But that's not happening for most of these people. And that kind of applies across the board with most college students."

Matthew Stern of Boston University is "nervous. I'm a senior. I know that I'm about to graduate from college and I don't know if there's going to be a job out there."

Just at the country is divided on the role government should play in our lives, so are these students.

Amanda Boren of the Harvard Business School said, "We need the government to get out of health care. That's why it's inefficient. And we need the market to fix it. And private charities can account for a lot of the other things that we say where we need -- you know, we need a backstop."

"But the reason exactly why government needs to be in it is because these insurance companies are just out to make a buck," said Kristoffer Munden, a student at Boston College. "That's the reason why they deny people with pre-exiting conditions and put lifetime caps. And if government wasn't there to regulate that then there's going to be so many Americans who would go without health insurance."

The overwhelming majority of college students voted for Barack Obama in 2008. But polls show they are less enthusiastic about the midterms. Democrats see that as a challenge. While Republicans view it as a huge opportunity.

Of those between the ages of 18 and 29 who voted for President Obama in 2008, 85 percent approve of the job he's doing. But only 44 percent say they definitely plan to vote in the midterm elections.

"I feel like our government is paralyzed," Clay said. "It doesn't matter who's elected as president." Clay says he's still waiting for the hope and change he was promised two years ago. When he looks ahead to 2012, he may be looking for change again.

"Trying something new is totally within the scope of what I think is reasonable."

Meanwhile, Amanda Boren says the president represents change she never wanted. "He's passed Obamacare. He's supported a lot of economic regulation that I think is really going to hurt our country long-term. Our foreign policy situation isn't great."

But President Obama's staunchest supporters are standing by their man.

"If you supported President Obama in 2008, it's still really important to make sure that you stay involved in this election season," Munden said. "Because I think we stand so much to lose -- especially as students -- if Republicans take over."

Brittani Haywood said the administration has "done a lot for students with the fact that I can now stay on my parents' health care until I'm 26. The fact that credit card companies are no longer able to basically be predatory towards students. And loan forgiveness is a little bit easier."

And lately President Obama has been asking students for some payback. He's made several visits to college campuses, including a trip to Ohio State on Sunday. "One thing I know about Buckeyes is, you all don't quit," Obama told the crowd.

And he's showing up at places like MTV, and on the cover of Rolling Stone.

But this year, Republicans are showing that they, too, can rock the vote, even though "conservative" is not often synonymous with "cool" on campus.

"We just had our club fair," Amanda Boren said. "And I was surprised at how many people came up to me and said, 'well this is a closed list right? If I join the Republican club, no one will know?'"

Taking a page from the Obama campaign playbook, Matthew Stern spends his time Tweeting, and making viral videos with the aim of replacing Massachussetts Gov. Deval Patrick with Republican Charlie Baker.

Stern said, "Often students say to me, 'well, what party is he? Is he a Republican or a Democrat?' And I say 'Republican.' And they run away. But I follow them because I want to tell them."

Couric: "You stop them."

"I follow them," Stern said. "I tell them about what his policy positions are and then they get interested. And sometimes they take a flier."

They are bright, informed, care about the issues and even as young adults, already have deep-seated political convictions - which may be part of the larger problem. But they are optimistic their generation could also be part of the solution.

Couric: "Do you think that you all could work together and achieve some middle ground, hearing what you've all heard today?"

"We might have to sit here for a while," Stern said. "But eventually we'll get hungry and want to cut to lunch - so we'll agree on some things.

More "American Voices" Reporting:
American Voices: Independent Voters in Philadelphia
American Voices: Unemployed Voters in Ohio
  • Katie Couric

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