While overall voting numbers decreased nationwide from last election, youth voter participation went up.
Voters between the ages of 18 and 29 represented 19 percent of all ballot casters, which is up 1 percent from the 2008 election, according to data from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. Overall, 57.5 percent of eligible voters of all ages voted this year while 60.4 percent voted in 2008, according to information from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate.
David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said he thought the youth voter turnout was substantially higher than past years.
“Most people were engaged toward the end of the election,” Yepsen said. “We saw voter registration shoot up, and I think it is because younger people saw the value in their votes.”
He said older people are more likely to vote because the government plays a larger role in their lives. He said the election affects young people’s futures more than they think.
“All young people have a stake in the election,” Yepsen said.
He said people under the age of 24 face many problems.
“Some people in the younger generation are cynical and face challenges such as tuition bills and getting a job in the worst economy since the depression,” he said.
Yepsen said some younger people think their vote does not matter, but apathy is not a way he would describe the 18-29 generation.
“The challenge of this younger generation is daunting,” Yepsen said. “I think a lot of younger people saw a lot of their challenges will be solved by what the government does or does not do.”
Yepsen said President Barack Obama targeted the youth vote in his campaign through such methods as social media to communicate his message. He said he thought Romney would have won more electoral votes in the election, and he was surprised at the numbers.
Despite this, Yepsen said he thinks Obama had a better planned campaign overall.
“For young people, I think Obama had the whole package that included their opinions on issues such as gay marriage and Planned Parenthood,” Yepsen said. “Obama won most of the battleground states, and I think the youth vote played a role in that,” Yepsen said.
Roudy Hildreth, an assistant professor in the department of political science, agreed that youth participation in the election helped Obama also, with the exit polls reporting the youth vote to favor Obama by 60 percent.
He said as for youth political interests at the university, some lack energy while others are heavily involved.
“I think there is a core group that largely includes graduate students who are involved in campaigning and are really active on campus,” Hildreth said. “But as far as the whole campus, there is a lack of energy as far as the election goes.”
Hildreth said while the younger generation is not the group writing concerned letters to Congress members, they are involved in the political conversation that takes place on social media.
“There wasn’t as much enthusiasm as this was not a historic election, but the voter turnout was good,” he said.
Hildreth said beside the campus’ lackluster election energy, there was an abundance of opportunities to be involved with it through campaigning or simply staying informed about its issues and news.
Larry Reinhardt, Jackson County clerk, said the youth turnout results were what he expected for this election. He said there were about 25,700 voters in 2008 compared to this year’s 24,200.
“The thing about student voters is that some register here but then graduate and move somewhere else, so they cannot vote,” he said.
Reinhardt said he thinks young voters played a large role in both Jackson County and the entire nation.
“We were pleased with the turnout and hope to see the same results in the future,” he said.