Elections bring mix of apathy, interest

This time next year, millions of Americans all over the country will flock to the polls to elect the nation’s new commander in chief.In light of ever-surfacing statistics that demonstrate the current president’s growing unpopularity and lack of support from the public for the war on terror, some who may not have paid attention to politics before are sitting up and now taking notice.

With the upcoming Democratic and Republican presidential primaries set for March 4 in Texas, candidate hopefuls in the 2008 race, as well as political activist organizations, are making a visible push at the younger generation.

Although this targeted younger generation, those ages 18 to 24, had both the lowest voter registration rates and voter turnout rates in the past two presidential elections compared with the rest of the population, this same younger group saw the greatest overall combined rate increase from the election in 2000 to the one in 2004, according to material published by the U.S. Census Bureau in March 2006.

National Voting Numbers

According to the census report, 55 percent of eligible citizens 55 years and older voted in 2004, compared to only 47 percent of eligible voters 18 to 24 years old. The key difference, the report stated, is in the 21 percent margin of registered voters between the two groups.

One reason for this proportionate difference may be that younger adults, especially in their early 20s, tend to be the most transient – meaning they live in places outside their original voting district. Lower registration percentages could then stem from their not wanting to deal with the hassle of reregistering, according to the report.

Combined, the number of voters registered and voters at the polls grew 4 percent from the 2000 election to the 2004 election, and media conglomerates such as MTV, and political advocacy organizations, such as Rock the Vote, continue to focus on registering more young voters. The Rock the Vote Web site alone registered more than 1.2 million young people in 2004.

Sophomore political science major Kelly Barnes said she feels strongly that TCU will reflect this prediction in 2008.

Barnes said most of his peers are interested in politics and will choose to take an active role in the election process.

“I do think that many TCU students are interested in the upcoming election, because the 2008 presidential campaign has started significantly earlier, which has allowed many students to be informed,” Barnes said. “At this time, I do not feel a strong tie to any candidate running for president. I have a few that I am willing to support, but I will have to see more from the candidates in the upcoming debates.”

Predicted Voting Trends at TCU

Junior political science major Mike Haeg said he will be voting in the election, but conveyed that his choice of a candidate would not be a snap decision.

“I am voting because it is a freedom that I am honored to have,” Haeg said. “Voting is one of the easiest forms of voicing an opinion. There is absolutely no reason not to.

“I base my candidate preference on much more than ‘single issue’ politics. The ability to lead Americans and close the partisan gap is hugely important in my mind – someone who can put hope back into politics.”

Stephanie Strauss, a junior advertising/public relations major, said she would be casting her vote for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani.

“He will be able to clean up the nation like he cleaned up New York after 9/11,” Strauss said. She said she voted in the 2004 election her senior year in high school and recalled being very excited to vote for the first time.

However, she is not convinced many of her fellow classmates share her enthusiasm for taking part in the political process.

“Hardly anyone I know even voted in the recent gubernatorial election, and Kinky Friedman even came to campus to give a talk,” Strauss said. “If you want your views heard, you have to vote. I am not a big fan of complaining but doing nothing about it. One vote can make a difference.”

Haeg shared similar sentiments about TCU students and the likelihood of them voting.

“In general, I feel like most students are fairly apathetic,” Haeg said. “This could come from sheer political ignorance due to the way they were raised, or mere boredom at the thought of politics and government.”

Landon Cox, a sophomore political science major, agreed.

“I think a fair majority of students at TCU are far more concerned with the size of their cuticles than current events,” Cox said. “It’s a tragedy, like white shoes after Labor Day or Uggs and a jean skirt.”

He said he plans to support Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

Amanda Torres, a senior advertising/public relations major, is not currently registered to vote, and she said she does not plan to do so anytime soon.

“Voting is unimportant to me because I don’t care,” Torres said. “I am uneducated and ignorant in everything related to politics, so I won’t vote on something that I know nothing about. I am just completely apathetic on the subject.”

Reasons for Reluctance

Despite opinions like Torres’ adamant decision against even considering to register, associate professor of political science Joanne Green said she does not believe TCU students are any more or less politically active than any other college students around the country; but she did say they might tend to be more conservative in their views.

She attributes this to most TCU students coming from more affluent families, and in most cases, having parents that associate themselves with the Republican Party.

She said a parent’s political behaviors will influence their child’s political behavioral development, as well. Green said if both the mother and the father affiliate themselves with the same political party, 50 percent of the time the child will choose to affiliate him or herself with the same exact party.

Green also said young people today tend to have more liberal views on social issues, such as gay rights and equal rights for women, but that it really all depends on their frame of reference.

Registration to vote in the Texas Democratic and Republican primaries ends 30 days before the election, which is March 4. The national election is always held the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. In 2008 it will be Nov. 4.