As election nears, uncertainty in students’ vote rises
Published: Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 13:10
As college students find themselves in the middle of an election year, voting is put at the foreground.
College students have become a voting demographic, which national politicians desperately fight to gain, as they would with any other group. However, youth are not the most eager population to vote according to research.
As reported by Project Vote, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, roughly 21 million 18-29 year old citizens did not vote in the 2008 presidential election. The organization also points out that if youth had voted at the rate citizens aged 30 and over had voted, 7 million more people would have cast a ballot in that election.
“When we don’t do something, that’s not only a statement, but an action,” said Rebecca Hensley, an instructor in the Sociology and Criminal Justice department. “We think of it as a non-action, we think of it as not being involved. We say ‘Well I’m not sure what I should do, so I’ll do nothing,’ but that is actually voting. It’s voting to keep things the way they are.”
Hensley said she finds most students “feel frustrated” with the political system and the constant Washington banter.
“It’s very disheartening,” said Hensley. “I feel that we have failed, on some levels, the youth who are looking at the world saying, ‘I might as well party because I don’t see how this is going to turn out well.’”
This, nevertheless, is remedied to some degree by students who are captivated by the news cycle and cast ballots on election days.
Youth ideally handed Barack Obama their support in 2008, giving him 66 percent of the entire 18-29 year old vote, turning out in mass numbers to support the Democratic nominee.
“I think a lot of college students got very excited about Barack Obama because he is black and because he talked about change, and they were excited about that,” said Hensley on the large support for the President.
Four years have passed since the historic ’08 election, and times have since changed.
Last year alone, 53.6 percent of college graduates under the age of 25 were unemployed or underemployed, according to the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University. Today, the unemployment rate among youth is 11.8 percent, not including the 1.7 million who have stopped looking for work altogether.
With these numbers affecting young people, it’s quite possible they could also have some effect on the youth vote in the upcoming election.
In a recent Pew Poll, President Obama is shown slipping among youth, holding only 58 percent of the vote, while Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s support has increased from 32 percent to nearly 42 percent.
College students will only sway the election, however, if they substantially turn out to vote.
To Pulitzer Prize winner and Stanford University Historian David M. Kennedy, voting is paramount to not only college students, but to the nation.
“I think the obligation to vote is not parsible by age. I think everybody who’s eligible to vote has an equal obligation to vote,” said Kennedy. “People died for our right to vote, and it’s a pretty precious right, and if we didn’t have it we’d be plenty upset, so not to exercise it seems to me as a way to thumb your nose in all of our most sacred values so I just think it’s a matter of principle.”
Ahead of elections, time can only tell if college students will take it upon themselves to voice their opinion. Hensley hopes students realize the advantage they have over other voting demographics.
“They have the power. They just don’t know they have the power,” claims Hensley. “We’re counting on the college students, not because we want you to do it for us, but because we want you to do it for yourselves.”