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Young Voters Wonder If Their Influence Will Be Felt After The Election

This story was written by Candace Braun, The Oracle


On Tuesday night, students at universities across the nationincluding the University of South Floridastormed their campuses, marching in the streets, cheering, shouting and crying.

Change was coming.

Now, the students who voted president-elect Barack Obama into officeand those who didnthave ideas as to what that change should be. Health care, education, the war in Iraqvirtually every platform and campaign trail promise has a concerned constituency behind it.

Obamas ability to connect with voters between the ages of 18 and 30 helped his campaign, said political analyst and professor Susan MacManus, but how much consideration hell give young voters wish lists now that the ballots have been tallied remains to be seen.

I am interested to see to what degree the Obama campaign tries to keep those communication channels open, she said. Are they going to ask for young peoples support? Will they ask young people to volunteer? For their thoughts? Does he continue to tap this young, youthful generation thats very supportive of him?

Democratic strategist Steve McMahon told the Associated Press that the only people Obama owes anything to are those who elected him, which includes the university-storming college students who turned out en masse to vote Tuesday. In fact, the youth vote accounted for at least 60 percent of the increase in voter turnout during this election, with about 23 million of the overall voters under age 30, reported CIRCLE, a nonpartisan group that researches young peoples political engagement.

CIRCLE also reported that 3.4 million more young people voted in this years election than in 2004, resulting in about 52 percent of all voters between the ages of 18 to 29 hitting the pollsa turnout that hasnt been seen since 1972.

The turnout may have been due to concern over an issue that affects students regardless of their party affiliations or life situations: the nations withering economy. By many political analysts measures, itll also be Obamas greatest challenge.

Its one thing to make promises and another to deliver, said professor Darryl Paulson, who specializes in campaign and election politics. The country doesnt have the resources to make everything happen. He has decisions to make. Does he increase the deficit or taxes to fund his projects? Does he disappoint the many who voted for him by saying we just dont have the resources at this time?

The morning after Obama was named the nations 44th president, the Dow Jones dropped 480 points, slipping further Thursday before seeing gains Friday.

Im in support of him raising taxes if thats what it takes to get stuff done, said Andrew Hoy, a music composition major. I dont think people trust the president, and thats whats killing the economy more than taxes right now.

Another big concern for students is the war in Iraq, which chemical engineering major Carolina Lopez said she feels goes hand-in-hand with economic concerns.

Weve spent so many billions on the war instead of here, she said.

Stephanie Yates, a chemistry major and McCain supporter, said shes not as worried about what Obama does first in office as whether Obama will rush to action and make decisions too hastily.

I want to see change but not too quickly, she said. Especially with the war in Iraq. I dont want him to pull out the troops too fast and end up creating a larger problem.

Though some students said they were interested in seeing Obamas first acts as president, others said they didnt believe he would take care of the nations problems immediately.

With every president, they all make promises they cant keep, said Chris Leker, a biomedical sciences majo. You take the good with the bad.

As a result, some have said Obama shouldnt feel a sense of obligation to appease anyone.

I think presidents get themselves into difficulties because they have to be liked by everyone, Paulson said. You should engage in projects because you believe in them, not because you want someone to favor you.

Moveon.org, for example, states the antiwar organization has provided 933,808 volunteers and $888,572 to the Obama campaign, and the Associated Press reported that the organizations postings of such efforts send a message to the Obama campaign: In exchange for the White House win, keep the war in Iraq at the top of your agenda.

Despite the help these organizations provided, some students felt they shouldnt have more pull than the average voter.

These groups may have got more people to vote, but thats what were supposed to do, said Angela Davies, a psychology major. If Obama helped them, hed be favoring certain groups, and thats not fair.

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