Many disappointed in Obama’s performance, say change has not taken place
Although the population of eligible voters has grown over the past decade, young voters still show little interest in the upcoming election.
A recent poll from Harvard University’s Institute of Politics showed 22 percent of voters between ages 18 and 24 are politically active. That number was 43 percent when the same poll was conducted four years ago. While the 2008 poll also showed two-thirds of these voters were “definitely likely” to vote in the general election, this month’s poll showed less than half of the potential voters intended to vote.
Young voters between the ages of 18 and 29 make up slightly more than 21 percent of the eligible voter population this year, according to eCampus, a website mainly geared toward textbook retail. This number has slowly increased since 2000, when the youth vote made up around 14 percent of eligible voters.
However, only a portion of these 46 million young voters are expected to vote, according to the website.
David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Instute at SIU, said young adults may not be enthused about voting because they have been turned off by the whole political process.
“Younger voters are disappointed,” he said. “They don’t think (voting) matters, so a lot of them are just tuned out.”
Yepsen said most of the young people who voted in the last election are disappointed by President Barack Obama’s first-term performance.
“Younger voters did turn out for Barack Obama, and I think they’re disappointed his change has not been as fast or as big as they had hoped,” he said.
Yepsen said he thinks the reason young Americans aren’t showing up to the polls is because most are preoccupied with finding jobs and paying bills.
However, Yepsen said the country’s young voter turnout has always been low.
“This is normal,” he said. “Younger Americans are historically some of the worst voters. As you get older, you see government playing a bigger role in your life and your participation rate goes up.”
Yepsen said older voters have increased turnouts in general, and individuals who are older than 65 have around a 95-percent voter turnout rate. He said this trend is strange because younger voters have more at stake.
“I think younger Americans have more at stake this election than any other generation,” he said. “We’re fighting wars. Which generation is doing the dying in those wars? Which generation is going to have to pay more in taxes and get fewer benefits for the rest of their lives because of this? It’s the younger generation.”
Even though a large portion of them don’t vote, Yepsen said many young voters are educated on the issues and can easily find information about them.
“Go online and start Googling,” he said. “We are a wash of information about politics today. Every news organization has a website. Every news organization has information.”
To counter the low turnout, students who are a part of campus political groups have made efforts to get younger voters involved in this year’s election.
Chance Tate, a senior from Mount Vernon studying political science and SIUC Democrats president, said his group and other organizations helped register 3,000 students and city residents for the Nov. 6 election. He said the goal was to highlight the presidential election, regardless of which political party the voters support.
Tate said most of his friends are interested in politics but some do not work or volunteer for political parties.
“Your vote is your voice … (though) I think oftentimes more goes into an election than just a vote,” he said.
Tate said the problem with getting students to vote is their approach toward the voting process.
Students said they had mixed views on voting and the upcoming election.
Jordan Hoskin, a senior from Chicago studying communication disorders and science, said he plans to vote in this election. Hoskin is president of the National Black Association for Speech, Language and Hearing, and he said the group has been trying to get students around campus to vote in this election. He said the group has also gone around the residence halls to register student voters.
Hoskin said he thinks it’s important for people to vote even though history shows Obama is likely to win Illinois because of the state’s Democratic presence.
“It doesn’t matter (what the odds are),” he said. “There’s still a 50/50 chance.”
Hoskins said most people put high expectations on Obama during his first term and are now disappointed he didn’t meet them.
He said the association will continue to encourage young voters to pay attention to politics even after the election.
Karen Baumann, a graduate student in zoology from Chicago, said she is voting and thinks other young people should as well.
“I think a lot of young voters are apathetic these days and like to complain about the issues,” she said.
Hannah Streicher, a senior from Kankakee studying history, said she does not think she will vote this year. Despite this, Streicher said it is important people be educated on key issues.
She said young people might not want to vote because they are disillusioned by Obama’s first term but do not want to vote for Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
Members of the SIUC Republicans could not be reached for comment after several phone calls and emails by press time Tuesday.