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Youth Turnout Climbs In 08 Election

This story was written by Jessi Polsky, Badger Herald


Anxious students across the country erupted with cheers of Yes, we did! and Goodbye, Bush! when CNN called the election in favor of Democratic presidential candidate Barack ObamaTuesday night.

The setting was similar on many campuses-- thousands of students rushed through university towns and held impromptu parties to celebrate the Democratic victory.

According to exit polls, the countless celebrity public service announcements and proliferation of Get out the Vote campaigns at colleges and universities nationwide worked, with more youth voting in this election than in 2004. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement estimates 49.3 percentto 54.5 percent of eligible 18- to 29-year-olds voted in the 2008 election, up at least 2.2 million from the previous presidential election cycle.

Between 2000 and 2008, the increase in youth turnout is 8 to 13 percentage points, according to a CIRCLE poll released Wednesday.

Indiana University senior Jason Harris said throngs of students went out into Bloomington, Ind. celebrate after McCains concession speech.

There was a huge procession and a parade; they were completely unexpected, Harris said. People were dancing around, and some guy was playing the bongo drums.

The crowd started small yet quickly grew to several hundred, Harris said. It was one of the more insane experiences Ive ever had, just because it was impromptu, he added.

And just like IU, hoards took it to the streets to cheer on Obamas victory in downtown Ann Arbor, Mich.

University of Michigan sophomore Andrew Dickson said about 1,500 students marched down Main and State streets there chanting and reveling in the Democratic win. The spur of the moment celebrations, Dickson said, shows how important the elections and political process are to Americas youth.

It was a time to take a stand, Dickson said. I think it shows the excitement that the youth has about this upcoming administration.

University of Wisconsin political science professor Charles Franklin said youth came out to vote in such high numbers for two reasons. College-age students were in middle school when President George W. Bush was elected and are unlikely to have memories of participating in the political process during any other administration, he said.

This is the first participation of people in this age group, and in a situation where George Bush is suffering from a very low approval rating, Franklin said. I think that the situation is probably the first and simplest explanation for the turnout.

Franklin also cited Obamas appeal as a transitional figure and an individual who represents and embodies change as reason for increased youth participation. Harris said the massive youth turnout at the polls proves young Americans believe they can impact this country.

It is very clear that the youth vote does matter, that students do care, Harris said. And when the youth started to believe that the youth vote does matter, they voted.

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