Young voters are less enthusiastic about voting in the 2012 presidential election than they were in the 2008 election, according to a new Gallup poll. Fifty-eight percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 29 say they are “definitely likely” to vote, a 20 percentage point decrease from October 2008.
According to Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, the large decrease in percentage points might be attributed to the nature of the 2008 election.
“The 2008 election was a very exciting one,” Schnur said. “Young people were just more excited about the 2008 election than any other campaign since 1984 or maybe even 1968. Those elections don’t come around all that often and are dependent on different societal challenges.”
Though the dynamic of this election is different from 2008, Schnur said he still sees students excited about participating in the upcoming presidential election.
“We’ll hold between 20 to 25 events this fall, almost all directed to the presidential election,” Schnur said. “The feedback we’re getting from students is that they want even more.”
Michael Wang, a senior majoring in political science, said discussing hot-button issues, such as gay marriage, immigration and health care, might help get students involved.
“Generally, once kids go back to school, they get more excited about the election while they’re talking about it in class,” Wang said.
Aaron Taxy, a junior majoring in international relations and president of the USC College Democrats, said the struggling economy could also draw the attention of young voters.
“Economically, things are getting better, but at the same time young people are facing an economy recovering from the recession,” Taxy said. “The reality of a hard economy will be an important gateway for students to get involved in our democracy.”
Ultimately, the participation of young voters will be determined by the interaction they have with their peers, experts said.
“The best way to reach a young voter is through another young voter,” Schnur said. “For college students who are interested in the election, they have an additional responsibility to reach out to their colleagues in a way that older people certainly can’t.”
With several months left before the November election, Schnur said youth involvement could increase.
“I know the Gallup poll showed that young voters aren’t particularly excited about this campaign, but the best thing about young people is that they are unpredictable,” Schnur said. “They may surprise us this upcoming election.”