Youth vote has potential to drive presidential election

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With 47 days left until the presidential elections and 19 days left to register to vote, the time for civic participation seems limited.

But for young voters, known for being the most indifferent demographic in the country, this time is as important as any.

According to the Seattle Pi, an online-only publication based out of Seattle, young people have voted at rates between 10 percent to 25 percent lower than the national average for decades.

Some students, like senior Cassandra Pino, generally have a sense of apathy toward elections.

“As dumb as this may sound, I don’t see any point in voting for the very reason that the popular vote does not ultimately determine who will become president, as has happened in the past,” Pino said.

Despite the well-documented civic apathy among college students, experts hope this presidential election will have a large young voter turnout, similar to the rise in voter turnout from 2004 to 2008.

According to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE), youth voting has been on the rise in the past several elections. Eighteen to 29 year-olds comprise the youth voter population. According to CIRCLE, this demographic’s turnout rose to 51 percent in 2008 – an increase of two percentage points from the 2004 presidential election. Still, youth voter turnout lags behind the turnout of voters over 30 years old.

Casey Klofstad, an associate professor of political science at the University of Miami and the author of “Civic Talk: Peers, Politics, and the Future of Democracy,” believes there are several reasons for the lacking number of youth voters at the polls on Election Day.

“In general, younger Americans vote less frequently than older people, and there are a variety of reasons for it,” Klofstad said.

Klofstad expressed that young voters need time to get adjusted to the right to vote. Eighteen year-olds who don’t have experience usually don’t vote, he said.

“It takes time to acquire the habit,” Klofstad said. “The other thing that matters is because younger people are less likely to vote, they’re less likely to be mobilized by candidates and parties.”

Estimates from the Census Current Population Survey November Supplement, posted on civicyouth.org, suggested that the voter turnout rate among young voters in 2008 was one of the highest recorded.

“What remains to be seen is that in 2008 there was a very big young voter turnout because of the Obama campaign,” Klofstad said. “And because not all young Americans are liberals, there’s diversity.”

The aforementioned survey suggests that the increase in 2008 is due to three factors: extensive voter outreach efforts, a close election and high levels of interest in the 2008 campaign. Those three factors, according to the study published on civicyouth.org, worked to drive voter turnout among youth voters to the highest levels seen since 1992.

Out of the 286 UM students who voted in a poll conducted by The Miami Hurricane, 265 are registered to vote. And out of the 266 voters who answered the question pertaining to political party affiliation, 95 students marked “Democrat,” 82 marked “Republican,” 45 marked “not affiliated,” and 44 marked “independent.”

Thirty-three percent of the students who did not give an answer regarding their party affiliation have the potential to impact the election.

Klofstad expressed the importance and weight of the college vote.

“Suffice to say, college-aged students would be a significant portion of the electorate if they turned out to vote,” Klofsad said.  “On top of that, it would make issues like student loans and entering jobs into the workforce more important. Politicians would have to pay more attention to it.”

Professors Christopher Mann and Joseph Uscinski, along with Klofstad, are teaching a course this semester titled “The 2012 Election.”

Freshman Fernanda Paguaga, a political science major, is enrolled in the class and expressed her interest in the material.

“I really wanted to know more about the candidates and their policies so I could be a more informed voter,” Paguaga said.

The class, which has had well-known speakers including UM President Donna E. Shalala and former Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain, aims to keep students informed during the election season.

“I like the guest speakers, and I like what they bring to the table,” Paguaga said.

Klofstad hopes students will remember the key point of the course.

“Do people remember the facts and figures about politics when they leave UM? Probably not,” he said. “But if they can remember that being politically engaged is important and voting is important, that’s our job in college. It’s not to be liberal or conservative, but just to say you’ve got to get in it.”

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