The 2008 election was monumental for young voters — one of the highest turnout percentages in nearly 40 years.
This year, according to polls, young voters aren’t planning on repeating this feat.
Expected voter turnout among 18- to 29-year-olds is down from the 2008 election, according to a July Gallup poll.
It found that only 58 percent of people in the 18- to 29-year-old demographic say they will “definitely vote” in the upcoming elections. These numbers mark a steep decline from 2008, which found that 78 percent answered they would do the same.
With such a stark contrast between the 2012 poll findings and previous years — expected turnout numbers were also higher in 2004 — the question of why this demographic’s interest has declined has arisen.
Larry Jacobs, professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, cited challenging economic times, dissatisfaction with the current administration and decreased student engagement with the media as reasons why students might be less inclined to head to the polls this fall.
A “disappointment factor” in the Obama administration, as David Schultz, a professor of public policy at the Hamline University School of Law, referred to it, was an often cited reason among experts for the expected low voter turnout.
“There was this sense that he represented change. Change in the sense of a break from a previous generation, a break from George Bush, a break from the status quo. In many situations, he doesn’t have any of that going for him now,” Schultz said.
Schultz also talked about Generation X-ers and Millennials perhaps putting unreasonably high expectations on the Obama administration.
“The phrases ‘hope’ and ‘change’ meant many things to many people,” Schultz said. “But it also meant that people had an exaggerated sense of what he might accomplish.”
Despite the disappointing poll results, student groups on campus will be gearing for the upcoming election by informing college students about the process of voting.
To Minnesota Student Association President Taylor Williams, the voter registration process can often be the major stumbling block preventing students from going to the polls.
“[Getting students registered] is more difficult than most people realize,” he said. “A lot of students show up at the polls because they care and they want to vote, and they’re turned away, which is a shame.”
A lack of consistency at polling stations regarding what materials are needed to register can further frustrate and confuse hopeful voters, Williams said.
“There’s quite a bit of variance depending on the polling station you go to and the election officials that are working,” Williams said. “One year a student at Bierman Place may have to just bring postage with their name on it to prove they live at that place, but the next year there could be a higher standard.”
MSA already registered young voters at Welcome Week events on campus, with further plans to do so in the coming months at off-campus apartments.
“We’re working with the Secretary of State’s office to try to coordinate a voter registration drive and a voter turnout drive at the largest apartments around campus,” Williams said.
Minnesotans historically turn out to vote at a higher rate than the rest of the country. The state was ranked No. 1 among all states in voter turnout percentage in 2008, according to U.S. Census Bureau voting and registration data.
The deadline to register in Minnesota is Oct. 16 by mail and Nov. 6 in person with proof of residency.
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