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Studies Show More College Students Voting

This story was written by Lindsay Cr, The Daily Universe

College students are two times more likely to vote than other young adults who are not enrolled in higher education.

According to the U.S. Census, about 42 percent of those aged 18 to 24 voted in the 2004 presidential elections. The majority of votes in that demographic came from students enrolled in a college or university.

Professor Kelly Patterson of the Brigham Young University Political Science Department credited education and discussions of political issues within universities with the increase in voter participation.

"They're taking classes in politics," Patterson said. "It's those kind of things ... [that] raise awareness of politics and the connection between participation and politics."

In a survey taken after the 2004 elections, almost 75 percent of college students were shown to discuss politics at least weekly. College students were almost twice as likely to vote as their non-enrolled 18- to 24-year-old counterparts, according to a study by Richard Neimi and Michael Hanmer of CIRCLE, the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

Another professor from the political science department cited some current issues that may contribute to high college student voter participation this year.

"College students are going to be looking for positions and jobs," said professor Byron W. Daynes. "I think this economic crisis is a particular concern to them."

Studies show 62 percent of college students said they had encouraged or helped someone else to vote in 2004, according to Neimi and Hanmer.

Daynes said presidential elections always draw a greater turnout, and the 2008 election will be no exception.

"Clearly the president's the most visible elected official," Daynes said. "This year, there's no incumbent to be re-elected, [so] it enhances the interest in the contest."

Patterson listed some of the reasons why 18- to 24-year-olds don't vote.

"Students are busy," Patterson said. "They're taking classes; they're working jobs - those kinds of things. And then younger voters, of which college students are one part, tend not to see the connection as strongly between voting and policy outcomes. So they're a little more likely to believe that their vote doesn't matter."

In the 2004 election, apathy was not strictly named as one of younger voter's reasons for not voting, according to a report compiled by CIRCLE following the election.

"Contrary to conventional wisdom, young people were no more likely than adults were to cite a lack of interest in the election as the main reason they did not register to vote in 2004," said CIRCLE researcher Karlo Barrios Marcelo.

According to Patterson, the time involved and perceived difficulty deter people of all ages from voting.

"There are barriers to voting in this country," he said. "It takes time to register. Very few people get Election Day off to go vote [and] the ballots are often long. People don't believe they can learn everything they need to learn about the candidates and the issues; and therefore, they choose not to participate."

Patterson said he believes this election's college-aged voters will follow the trend of having the lowest turn-out rate of all voter age groups. However, compared to other election years, he said he expects all voter age groups to participate in increased voting this year.

"The real question is whether or not that young cohort increases at a higher rate than some of these other age cohorts," Patterson said. "My guess is that, after it's all over with, that 18- to 24-year-old cohort will still have the lowest rate of participation fr voting, of all the different age cohorts."

About 71 percent of those aged 65 to 74 voted, and about 67 percent of those aged 45 to 64 voted in the 2004 elections, according to the U.S. Census.

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