High Youth Turnout Expected In Pa.

This story was written by Emily Schultheis, Daily Pennsylvanian
If the thousands of students at Sen. Barack Obama's Philadelphia rally last Friday -- and the thousands that came to the Palestra Monday night for Hillary Clinton's rally -- are any indication, this year's primaries have seen a dramatic rise in youth involvement.

The question now, however, is whether this trend will continue when Pennsylvanians vote Tuesday, and what this trend means for the Democratic presidential candidates.

Analysts and students expect a high turnout from young voters Tuesday.

"The trend has been quite consistent so far, so that makes me think there will be similar youth turnout in Pennsylvania, though it's possible that the negativity lately could affect that," said University of Maryland research scholar Peter Levine.

According to Sujatha Jahagirdar of the Student Public Interest Research Group, this year is only the most recent example of a trend that has been present for the last several election cycles.

From 2000 to 2004, there was a 9-percent increase in youth turnout and a 15-percent increase in Pennsylvania.

Jahagirdar said the youth-voter trend is largely due to the increased attention both campaigns have afforded young people. However, she also said that she hopes a high level of youth turnout Tuesday will force candidates to pay even more attention to students.

In Tuesday's primary, analysts agree that the youth vote will most likely aid Obama.

A Daily Pennsylvanian/CBS News poll released last week shows that 73 percent of Penn students and 71 percent of students statewide support Obama.

However, some experts cautioned that youth turnout in favor of Obama isn't a guarantee.

Levine cited the example of Massachusetts, where youth voter turnout was up significantly this year, but Clinton had a slight advantage with the youth in that state's primary.

Still, Obama has won the youth vote in nearly every state this primary season.

Though the youth vote is generally accepted as an advantage for Obama, Clinton's campaign is hopeful that she will receive a significant portion of this demographic as well.

"We feel pretty good about the college vote here," said Clinton spokesman Brendan Gilfillan. He said he believes the fact that her final event before the primary was a rally on Penn's campus "says a lot about how we view the college vote."

The Obama campaign acknowledged his advantage among young people, but some say the youth support may not be enough to win the state.

"Obviously college students and young people in general have been very helpful to this campaign," said Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich.

While Penn Political Science professor Richard Johnston agreed that Obama will benefit from the youth turnout, he questioned whether it would be enough to help him win the election.

That sentiment was echoed by College sophomore Lauren Burdette, the president of Penn Democrats, which has endorsed Obama.

At this point, the effect of the youth vote "would be to limit [Clinton's] victory to single-digits," Burdette said.
© 2008 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE