Study finds disinterest in young voters, UI campus groups disagree


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With the general election under three weeks away, the campaigns strive to spark enthusiasm in one key demographic: the youth vote.

A study released on Wednesday by the Harvard Institute of Politics claimed voters between the ages of 18 and 29 trust President Obama more on issues pertaining to their age group by 31 percentage points. However, more young voters supporting GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney are more likely to “definitely vote” in this year’s general election, exceeding Obama voters by 10 percent.

Both campaigns recognize the importance of winning the youth vote in this election, and have been working to reach out to that demographic, particularly on the University of Iowa campus.

“We want to make sure young people are engaged and informed about the issues,” said Elizabeth Purchia, press secretary for Obama for America Iowa.

This is why the Obama for America campaign has taken such strides to ensure students are registered and have access to voting satellites, she said.

On campus, the Obama campaign has also hosted several events, which range from celebrities visits —like Rashida Jones and Justin Long — to the president himself.

Kelsey Boehm, the president of the UI College Republicans, echoed the results of the Harvard poll.

“I find that among Republicans, I find the exact opposite [of apathetic youths],” she said.

Boehm said she thinks while young voters may have lost enthusiasm for Obama, students are still enthusiastic about the election and will show up to vote.

The UI College Republicans have been manning tables on the Pentacrest this semester and speaking a lot with students one-on-one about getting out to vote.

UI Associate Professor of political-science Tim Hagle said it isn’t surprising that students may be  less energetic about this election.

“Four years ago, young voters … were very enthusiastic,” he said. “This wasn’t surprising.  We were coming off eight years of a Republican administration, and that usually means young voters are ready for a change.  In addition to the mere desire for change, Obama was seen as youthful and vigorous … [and] there was also the historic aspect of Obama being the first black nominee for a major party and the possibility to make him president.”

A.J. Spiker, the chairman of the Iowa GOP Party, lives in Ames, another college town, and he said he has noticed a large dampening of young voters’ enthusiasm. He blames this on Obama’s disappointments.

“They’re looking at an economy where they can’t even find a job,” Spiker said. “In 2008, energy for Barack Obama was through the roof, and this year it’s literally nonexistent.”

While younger voters across the nation may be less excited about the election than they were in 2008, many students on campus say they have observed anything but despondency.

“I think both of the campaigns are really stepping [their] games up,” UI student Anthony Ferguson Jr. said.

Ferguson said he has noticed how both campaigns are reaching out to students on campus and it has created enthusiasm across campus.

“The students who I’ve spoken to this year know the issues, and they’re just as excited,” he said.

Representatives from Romney’s campaign were unable to be reached for a comment on its efforts toward the youth vote.  

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