Youth Interest, Participation In Politics On The Rise This Election Season

This story was written by Colin Kavanaugh, Daily Pennsylvanian
Actually, they do care.

While most students were busy catching z's over the winter break, some Quakers were bearing the cold of Iowa and New Hampshire in support of the 2008 Presidential candidates.

In a departure from previous election cycles, this year's candidates are depending on youth involvement both within their campaigns and in voting booths for their success.

"We're at a time of war and that has produced a lot of activity," said Famid Sinha, a senior in the College and the national communications director for Students for Barack Obama.

"A lot of us have lost faith [in our government] and we want to restore that faith," said Sinha, who worked in New Hampshire over winter break organizing and scheduling for the Obama campaign.

Increases in youth volunteers also corresponded with a growing number of young people at the polls.

In Iowa, 22 percent of caucus-goers were under age 30, and 18 percent of voters were under age 30 in New Hampshire.

Even for natives of the process, this year is exceptional.

Amelia Ahlgren, a College freshman and New Hampshire resident, is used to seeing candidates in her state with its first-in-the-nation primary.

Ahlgren went door-to-door campaigning for Hillary Clinton, and she believes that Clinton's grassroots campaign gave her a "comeback" win.

She was told during the campaign that "this is going to be the most important election of your life," and said she felt more energy from young people than in past elections.

Students have been turning out for both political parties, with particular interest in the campaigns of Mike Huckabee and Obama, said Richard Johnston, a Penn Political Science professor.

For Huckabee, "it's young, evangelical Christians" who made the difference in Iowa, he said.

In an election where the word "change" has become commonplace, it is still a resonating factor in many young voters' decisions to volunteer and vote.

"It is the idea of change that has become the mantra," said Randall Miller, a political analyst and St. Joseph's University history professor.

Abby Huntsman, a College senior and the chairwoman of the College Republicans, said young people are also increasingly interested in working with those in the position to create change.

"As I get older, I realize I'm about to step into the real world, and it makes you realize that these politicians have a huge influence on our world," she said.

As candidates prepare for "Super Tuesday", when 22 states will vote, the belief of some analysts is that activism among young voters will decline.

Many of those states restrict primary-day registration, which could make it more difficult for students to vote.

"The more stringent the rules, the more difficult it will get" for students to play a critical role, Johnston said.

But Penn students say youth enthusiasm is still likely.

"Students were not apathetic," Ahlgren said. "There was a lot of energy, and seeing them get out to vote was the most important thing."
© 2008 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE