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Prof. Ken Bode Examines Why 18-to-24 Year Olds Don't Vote

September 3, 2004

September 3, 2004, Greencastle, Ind. - Of Americans between ages 18 and 24, Ken Bode writes, "This age group retires the cup for last-place finishes in percentage of voters, election after election, trailing even those 65 and older. The last election when even half of them turned out was 1972, the first time 18-year olds were allowed to vote." Bode is Eugene S. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Professor of Journalism at DePauw University. In his weekly op-ed column, published in today's Indianapolis Star, Bode discusses the age group which had voter turnout of just 37% in 2000.

"Currently, fewer than half are even registered," Dr. Bode points out. "Young people do not vote, and they have their reasons. Politicians don't address our issues, they say. Social Security reform, exploding health care costs, taxes are not pressing issues for the young. They have a point. People 18 to 24 are finishing their educations, relocating, finding jobs and homes, starting families. Understandably, politics is a low priority. In time the large national issues will become their issues and they will grow into the habit of voting. But for now, they are less than half as likely to vote as their elders."

Bode notes, "Ellen Shearer and Jack Doppelt of Northwestern University studied non-voters, especially the young. They found that in homes where politics and voting are part of the family conversation, it soaks in. Where parents are disinterested or too busy to vote, indifference becomes part of the family culture... As with their elders, education makes a difference. In 2000 only one in five with less than a high school education voted. Among college graduates, it was more than 70 percent. In each election, the bottom drops out."

The professor, former senior political analyst at CNN, concludes: "There are 9 million college students in America today. Harvard's Institute of Politics has been polling students nationwide each six months for the past two years. Over that period, President Bush's approval rating has fallen from 61 percent to 44 percent. It is not John Kerry that accounts for the drop, because students are mixed on him. Support for our Iraq policy is falling also, but college students are riding out the war without much personal liability. One issue, however, cuts the same with college students as with older voters. Consistently, it is the economy they care about. Asked if they think it will be easy or difficult to find a job after graduation, 67 percent of the students say difficult. Now that is a voting issue."

Read the complete essay online by clicking here.

Access other recent columns by Ken Bode here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

Source: Indianapolis Star

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