Poll: Young voters ready to make a difference

Posted: September 16, 2010

A poll released yesterday revealed that young voters in Pennsylvania are engaged in the electoral process and optimistic, but pollsters and political analysts say that politicians don't appreciate their potential power.

The survey of 1,000 voters ages 18 to 29, conducted nationwide in August, showed that young people are more concerned about candidates' views of the issues than about party identification.

"We need candidates across the board to talk about the issues that young people care about," said Chrissy Faessen, vice president of communications and marketing for Rock the Vote, which conducted the poll. "There is a huge opportunity for candidates to step it up."

The poll showed that young voters cared most about unemployment, the national debt, America's dependence on foreign oil, global warming, sex education and gay marriage.

Nearly half of young Pennsylvanians said that politicians don't talk about the issues that are important to them, the poll found.

Colin Hicks, a state coordinator with Rock the Vote, said that he has not seen politicians do much in terms of reaching out to young voters.

"It's definitely a good time," said Hicks, who has worked at the University of Pennsylvania and Saint Joseph's University. "Students there are showing eagerness."

In fact, the poll shows that 75 percent of young voters are "totally likely" to vote in the November election and 63 percent have been paying "total attention."

But "if young voters want to be taken seriously, they need to vote in large numbers," said Mark Nevins, a Democratic strategist with the Dover Group. "Philadelphia in particular is a place where candidates can't afford to ignore the youth vote because there are so many colleges and universities."

The survey shows that young people are confident in their ability to affect change but are more cynical about politics than they were two years ago.

Just over half of young voters - 51 percent - believe that the country is moving in the wrong direction and 40 percent are disappointed with what President Obama has done so far.

Nationally, the number of young voters identifying as Democrats has plunged, due to more young white voters registering Republican. Democrats had an advantage of 18 percentage points over Republicans in 2008, but now the spread is only 9 percentage points.

"Politicians are going to flock to those who put them in office," said Jeff Jubelirer, a communications strategist. But, he said, "the future depends on attracting this demographic."

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