Marquette Wire

Poll: Youth don’t vote via party

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In terms of political affiliation, the numbers associated with a specific party are quite similar for younger and older Americans. Of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, 30 percent said they were strictly Republicans, 24 percent considered themselves Democrats and 45 percent identified themselves as independent.

Likewise, of Americans over the age of 30, 34 percent called themselves Republicans, 27 percent were Democrats and 38 percent were independent.

Sophomore Michelle Schoenleber considers herself independent.

“I don’t identify myself politically because neither party really stands for everything I want in a politician,” she said.

Schoenleber said she was not sure whether or not she was encouraged by the number of young Americans who considered themselves Independent.

“When it comes to voting, you have to pick what meets your needs, and I think it’s a travesty that people say ‘I’m going to vote for so-and-so because they’re a Democrat or because they’re a Republican,'” she said. “But I think most people are independent on the basis that they are uninformed, not because they actually are independent.”

Others, like sophomore Brent Eisberner, identify strongly with one party. The Republican Party’s consistent support of the military appeals to Eisberner, who is active in Marquette’s Reserve Officers Training Corps program.

“I agree with their views on supporting the military and how they think the government should spend their money,” he said.

When asked if he would consider voting for a Democratic candidate if he or she was better for the job than the opposing Republican, Eisberner said he would only do so in an extreme case.

“The only reason I’d cross over to vote for a Democrat is if the Republican candidate was way out there,” he said. “I generally agree with Republicans and I want more people I agree with in the government.”

The greatest differences in opinion between older and younger Americans regarded controversial social issues, particularly gay marriage and Social Security.

Young Americans are more willing to allow people to put a portion of their Social Security payroll taxes into a personal retirement account; in turn, that money would be invested in private stocks and bonds. The poll showed that 82 percent of young Americans would support such a program, compared with 58 percent of older people. Additionally, only 39 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds believe that Social Security benefits will be available to them when they retire.

Only 32 percent of older Americans said they were supportive of marriages between homosexual couples, compared with 53 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29. The Gallup Poll indicated that the trend of young Americans supporting homosexual unions had been consistent in other polls in recent years and demonstrates a more liberal and inclusive frame of mind among the younger generation.

Racial and ethnic groups should be allowed to continue to embrace their individual cultures while living in the United States, according to 54 percent of young Americans. In contrast, half of older Americans feel that racial and ethnic minorities should assimilate into the country’s dominant culture.

The poll results also showed apathetic voting tendencies and minimal interest in politics among young Americans.

Only 39 percent of young Americans said they always voted; in contrast, 59 percent of older people said they voted in local, state and national elections. Just 13 percent of young people follow news concerning national politics, compared with 31 percent of older people.

John McAdams, an associate political science professor, said the mobility of young Americans was an impediment to voting.

“Voting is often driven by the significance of local elections,” McAdams said. “Young people may have no commitment to the locality where they are. When you think of Marquette students, where are they going to be in three or four years? They don’t know. Their interest in voting lies in where they are attached to, and many students don’t know where that will be.”

Freshman Miriam Ard is a member of Marquette’s College Republicans and said she considers politics very interesting and very important.

“I feel that the small part I could play in politics will hopefully raise political awareness, because without political awareness and understanding, Americans cannot survive in the world 10, 50 or 100 years from now,” Ard said.

Ard said that she does not feel students are politically active enough on campus.

“Whether Democratic or Republican, a person needs to feel some sort of passion for our country and the path it takes,” she said. “Many people that it is most important for (others) to have political views that follow their own, but I would love to see people just care more and get more involved in politics.”

Despite these low numbers concerning voting habits and attention to national politics, younger Americans are more likely to have more confidence in the government and in the president.

Half of Americans ages 18 to 29 felt that they trusted the national government to act in their best interest; of that 50 percent, 6 percent said they were confident in the government “just about always” and 44 percent were confident “most of the time.”

In comparison, most older Americans do not trust the government nearly as much as their younger counterparts; of the 36 percent that are confident in national politics, 4 percent said they felt that way just about always, and 32 percent said most of the time.

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