Posted at: 10/04/2012 12:05 AM
| Updated at: 10/04/2012 12:53 AM
By: Dan Levy
ALBANY - When it comes to persuading people to vote for them, there's probably no demographic group more important to the candidates than young voters -- people under the age of 30.
In 2008, approximately 24 million young Americans voted in the presidential election -- two-thirds of them for Barack Obama. Most political pundits believe if it weren't for young voters Obama never would have been elected president.
In 2012, however, there seems to be evidence that young people aren't as engaged as they were in 2008 and the "enthusiasm factor" may have disappeared from college campuses.
At the very least, the "enthusiasm factor" that lifted Obama into the White House doesn't appear to be what it was.
"I feel like college students don't have that spark anymore, they really don't," opined Holly Aftel, a College of Saint Rose junior, watching the first presidential debate with friends on Wednesday night.
Aftel isn't alone. Other students seem to be withdrawn from the days when college campuses were hotbeds of political activism.
"I think it has a lot to do with the apathy that is starting to set in," said Kevin Towle, a Saint Rose junior and president of the school's National History Honor Society. "Apathy is a big obstacle in any election."
Towle was also part of a group of a few dozen students gathered inside Centennial Hall on Madison Avenue in Albany to watch the debate.
"The enthusiasm may not be there this time around," he continued. "I think it's important for young people to watch these debates to focus on the issues and educate themselves so they can make an informed decision."
"I think we have a lot of people who really do care," said Alexis Fischer, a Saint Rose sophomore. "I also think there are people who have kind of given up and that's a huge problem."
Even though most of the young people watching the debate say they've pretty much made up their minds about who they'll be voting for, some indicated their minds could be changed if a candidate says the right thing about the right topic.
"As a senior, I want to know about the job market," said Kaylee Pagano, a Saint Rose senior. "I want to know what they have for me when I graduate next year because I don't know what it's going to look like and I'd like to see what they're going to do to help me."
"I think there's a lot of uncertainty and I honestly can't say for sure [that there'll be a job waiting for me after graduation]. I'd like to think there is," Towle said.
"We still have an active political voice," Aftel stated. "We are the future, we are the next generation and some of my peers might be in Congress. They might even be the president one day."
In 2008, 51 percent of America's young people voted in the presidential election -- the third highest percentage in history.
The second highest was 52 percent in 1992 when Bill Clinton defeated George H.W. Bush.
The record is 55 percent in 1972, the first time 18-year-olds could vote. That year Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern.