I think this study is kind of interesting because it contradicts the notion that college students are apathetic and don’t vote. (The Kennedy School of Government has done other work contradicting the notion that college students are apathetic. Check out Research Matters. I think that’s where I saw it.)
When I was in college (which wasn’t that long ago, thank you very much), my Mom definitely encouraged me to vote and taught me how to get an absentee ballot and we got it taken care of by all the deadlines. Many of my peers didn’t know about absentee ballots, how to get one, or that you had to return it before the election. I often wonder how college students’ voting behavior is impacted by all the obstacles to voting students face. Where I went to college, no one publicized voting or really talked about it in any official capacity. The college newspaper could have published an article about voting via absentee ballot close to the election. I don’t know if I would have taken the effort to vote had I not had a mother who believed strongly that I should or had close peers who were very much into politics and voting. (The governor’s election my freshman year also had one candidate who was going to increase spending on higher education and one who was going to cut education funding, so that helped motivate me to vote, too.) Now that computers and electronic voting are used in many elections, I often wonder whether there could be a special setup at college and university campuses so that students can vote regardless of their residency and the results can be sent electronically to the proper districts and wards. This has great potential to increase voting across the nation because there are many people who can’t get to the polls while they’re open, especially during elections that don’t coincide with the Election Day holiday.
It’s also nice, too, that someone acknowledges that young people are an important voice in our nation. Gen Xers and the people after us (Gen Y?) get such bad raps sometimes. Maybe people are too young to vote, but that doesn’t mean they won’t remember how the economy went bad under a Republican government or that a Democratic president did some scandalous things and was impeached because of them or that no one campaigned in poor areas of South Carolina during some elections because they don’t think the minority vote is important. Yeah. People remember those things and that’s what helps form their opinion of the political parties later on.
I’d also like to know which college students they interviewed for the study. The responses all seem way too conservative. Before and during Operation Iraqi Freedom, we kept looking for conservative students at Harvard to interview for various articles, but didn’t find very many. Who are these kids who like George W. Bush and the war?