> Student Bureau
Education Partners
· From 'acoustics' to 'zoology,' explore our online Dictionary of Science and Technology
· Learn about the U.S. with our online atlas
· Understand the phases of the moon
· Online Stanford writing assessment


Never mind for now

College students turned out en masse in the 1972 presidential election, but the youth vote has declined steadily since then  

Low voter turnout may see turnaround
with new technologies, volunteerism

June 21, 2000
Web posted at: 6:43 p.m. EST (2243 GMT)

In this story:

Mobility of youth a factor
Online voting wave of future?

In the 1996 U.S. presidential election, less than one-third of 18- to 24-year-olds voted. And 15 percent voted in the 1998 congressional elections.

It's official: Young people vote less than any other age group. But it hasn't always been that way.

A year after the national voting age dropped from 21 to 18, and after years of Vietnam War protests, college students went to the polls en masse for the 1972 presidential election.

Voters can register online

"Clearly 1972 was a high watermark," said Dr. Frank Newport,
editor in chief of the Gallup Poll. "That was the year when 18- to 29-year-olds very disproportionately voted for the Democratic candidate George McGovern, who was clearly and precisely running on an anti-war platform at that point."

McGovern galvanized youth support around a single issue -- ending American involvement in the Vietnam War.

Despite the largest youth voter turnout in history, McGovern lost to President Richard Nixon. Since then, the number of teen and twentysomething voters has steadily declined.

Mobility of youth a factor

Brian Elms, director of the National Youth in Action Campaign, which provides program and financial support for young people who want to improve their communities, said that he knows why.

"Politicians have gone around creating laws for young people without ever asking them what they feel about it," Elms said. "It's unfortunate. If politicians don't cater to a particular demographic, people just stop going to the polls."

But Newport said there may be another more practical reason young people are not voting.

"Part of the reason is that voting is an act that is related to stability," he said. "By that, I mean that if you've lived in the same house and the same town for a number of years you get used to knowing where you vote."

"Younger people are more likely to be mobile; they move a lot, they change jobs, and therefore they're less likely to know where to vote."

Online voting wave of future?

New technologies, such as the Internet, may offer hope.

Arizona conducted this year's Democratic primary online, setting new turnout records.

"Everybody knows that young people are more likely to be active on the Internet -- it's kind of a way of life for them," Newport said. "So if you put the two together, then yes, there's every possibility that if you can get young people into being able to vote on the Internet, which is something they do naturally, you might increase to some degree their participation."

Still, online voting is years away from widespread use. Current voting trends, moreover, may not be the best indication of what young Americans care about today.

"In the past few years, we have seen a push toward labor rights," Elms said. "Schools around the country are participating in labor rights activism."

Yet, while some may find the downward voting trends discouraging, they do not tell the whole story -- specifically, how much young people care about their society.

One compelling statistic speaks to another trend: Seventy percent of 18- to 24-year-olds said they volunteer their time to community efforts, a higher percentage than in any previous generation.

A join venture of Turner Learning
Privacy   About   Feedback Back to top   
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved. | Terms under which this service is provided to you.