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Young people, politicians show little interest in each other
Bill Reed, 27, a business major, asks about what the state government is doing to thwart illegal immigration during an event Monday hosted by the Politically Incorrect Club at Gainesville State College in Oakwood. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

In November’s midterm elections, as usual, don’t expect a strong showing from young voters.

Young adults have been mostly ignored by politicians, and politicians have historically been given little reason to pay attention to them, either.

“I think politicians will tend to pay the most attention to those who vote,” said Douglas Young, a professor of political science at Gainesville State College. “Young people are typically the least likely to vote.”

Young, who is adviser for the college’s Politically Incorrect Club, said a number of
candidates have turned down invitations to speak to the students.

But not all young voters are apathetic.

Joshua Lewis, 25, said he has taken an interest in politics this year.

“Local elections for me are key,” Lewis said. “For me, it’s getting involved and meeting more of the people that represent me here in Hall County.”

There also have been nationwide examples of youth involvement, such as the 2008 presidential election. President Barack Obama’s campaign aggressively targeted voters 18 to 29, who showed up en masse to the polls to help elect him.

“When young people do vote, and especially when they have a clear favorite ... young people really can have quite an impact,” Young said.

Young voters tend to be more liberal on a number of issues and have flocked to Democratic candidates in recent history.

Much like Obama, Bill Clinton was a relatively young and charismatic candidate that drummed up support from young voters in 1992. He used hip platforms of his day like MTV and the “Arsenio Hall Show” to reach younger voters, just as Obama used Facebook and Twitter.

As a whole, though, many young voters say they feel politicians are out of touch with issues most important to them.
Chandler Crowley, 18, said she is put off by the focus on negative campaigning.

“They just want to attack each other,” Crowley said. “Nobody wants to get involved with that. We have our own issues, we don’t have to worry about theirs.”

She said she would like to see more results from candidates.

“They say whatever to get elected and then they don’t pursue it,” Crowley said. “Everybody’s like, ‘I just don’t want to vote.’ It’s a bad thing, but I understand why nobody wants to vote.”

Young said there are likely a number of factors behind the apathetic youth cohort.

He said a big part of the blame lies with public schools, who he says traditionally have not put an emphasis on social studies and political science. He said those subjects often are taught by coaches with no formal training in the subject, which means they may not impart on students a passion for the American political system.

“The social sciences is so often the academic ghetto of high schools,” Young said.

He said parents also have a big impact on their children’s civic habits.

“Generally in homes where political issues are not discussed, campaigns are not talked about at the dinner table and parents don’t vote, those are the homes where the children when they get to be 18 are the least likely to vote,” Young said.

Young said once people get married and start paying taxes, they become rooted in a community and feel more impacted by the government.

That’s the case for Lewis, who owns a small business, making taxes a key issue for him. Education also is important as his wife is working on a master’s degree in education. He also has friends who were first- and second-year teachers whose jobs fell on the chopping block as local and state governments cut back on education spending to combat declining revenues.

“I just don’t think people understand how much politics affect their daily lives,” Lewis said. “They don’t think their participation is necessary.”

Though he is tuned into the races this election season, Lewis said he doesn’t think the candidates do an adequate job of courting younger voters.

“Youth isn’t a concern at all for candidates,” Lewis said. “Our needs and our views go largely ignored. It’s never an important topic for politicians just because we’re not as involved as we should be.”

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