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Youth make noise in campaigns but not at polls

  • Story Highlights
  • Historically, young people do not have a strong showing at the polls
  • Democrats say they have 61 percent of the vote under 30
  • NYU poll: Majority of students said they'd give up their right to vote for free tuition
  • Young people bring energy, enthusiasm to a campaign
  • Next Article in Politics »
By Carol Costello
CNN
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(CNN) -- If you graze the Web, it certainly seems like America's 20-somethings have a loud and powerful voice when it comes to pushing presidential candidates.

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Young supporters for GOP candidate Ron Paul have rallied online and generated cash for his campaign.

Perhaps none are as loud as Republican Ron Paul's young fans. They have been creatively effective online, parlaying their passion into cold hard cash for Paul's campaign and raising his profile.

But, Ron Paul aside, the Democrats boast that they have youth on their side in droves.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "We're getting 61 percent of the vote under 30. [Republican] candidates look like the 1950s."

Democrats have actively pursued the youth vote by trying to speak their language. Most candidates have campaign ads online and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois appeared at Coe College in Iowa to take part in an MTV/MySpace presidential dialogue.

And young potential voters responded. But, who cares? Historically, young people, despite splashy shows of enthusiasm, do not vote. Video Watch how candidates are pursuing the youth »

"They're still not voting at their level in the population. The voting population is dominated by those age 50 and over," said Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.

According to the University of Virginia's Youth Leadership Initiative, in 2006 there were 50 million people between the ages of 18 and 29 but only about 7 million actually cast a ballot.

A recent poll by New York University's journalism department found that a majority of students said they would give up their right to vote if they could get their tuition paid.

CNN sent a crew to NYU to ask why young people don't vote in large numbers.

"I would absolutely give up my right to vote," one young man said. Another said, "It's my education and I feel that's a little more important."

So why do politicians boast they have the youth vote when historically it's not all that?

Sabato says young people bring an energy and an enthusiasm to a campaign that no one else can, at least not at the level young people can.

Can you imagine the now famous Obama Girls generating the same kind of media attention if the "Girls" were over 60?

Young people also are tireless campaigners, and while they may not be able to convince their peers to vote, Sabato says their enthusiasm certainly pushes older people to the polls.

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So is it worth it for politicians to court young voters?

It is, but not necessarily for their votes. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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