“The kids are turned off from politics, they say. Most of ’em don’t even want to hear about it. All they want to do these days is lie around on waterbeds an’ smoke that goddamn marrywanna,” Hunter Thompson wrote in his 1973 classic Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, parodying those who predicted low youth-voter turnout for the 1972 presidential race.
It’s a perception that both the Cornell Democrats and Republicans are fighting as they gear up for November’s mid-term elections — in the face of predictions from political scientists that the record-breaking youth participation of the 2008 election will vanish.
The Cornell Republicans are planning to focus most of their efforts in getting Tom Reynolds elected to New York’s 125th Assembly District. The group has already been, according to C.U. Republicans President Peter Bouris ’11, “active on [his] campaign committee,” and “creating ads and videos” for the candidate.
The Republicans took what Bouris called their “biggest” trip of the season last week to campaign for Doug Hoffman, running for the 23rd District N.Y. Congressional seat.
Chairman Emeritus of the Cornell Republicans Konstantin Drabkin ’11 said that the youth vote “will be a huge factor in this election.” Drabkin predicted that the “youth movement energized by the 2008 campaign has become more and more educated about the particular issues” and will therefore “move towards the Republican candidates for the 2010 election cycle.”
The Cornell Democrats said that their “main local campaign” would work towards getting Mike Arcuri (D-24) re-elected.
Arcuri “has done a lot for this area,” said Cornell Democrats Vice President Hallie Mitnick ’12 and is “running in a really close race against a candidate we would not be happy with.”
With shades of 2008, the Cornell Democrats are also hoping to bus, according to Mitnick, close to 30 volunteers to Pennsylvania to support the campaign of Rep. Joe Sestak.
Like Drabkin, Cornell Democrats President Terry Moynihan ’11 said that “if young people were to get out the vote, [they] could be the same deciding factor as in 2008.”
Yet Moynihan asserted that high youth turnout would greatly benefit the Democrats.
There is “no question” that the “Democratic party aligns with our [students’] values much more than the Republican party does,” Moynihan said.
Moynihan cited “Obama’s student loan reforms … the biggest increase in student aid on the federal level” and his healthcare bill which allows students to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26.
Drabkin countered that, although his party “still has a long way to go ... this election season will see large shift of young voters moving over to the Republican side,” he said.
Drabkin said “responsible financial management” was an “especially important youth issue,” given that it is “our time, money [and] deficit at stake.”
Still, neither side’s talking points to the “youth bloc” will matter much if it does not show up to vote.
Just two years after Obama rode a 68-to-30-percent advantage in young voters and the largest youth vote turnout in history for a presidential election, political experts are pollsters are predicting a sharp drop in voter turnout from the youth vote.
A recent Gallup poll showed that the number of 18-29-year-olds who have devoted “quite a lot” of thought to the upcoming election has plummeted 56 percent; youth voter turnout slid 32 percent in Massachusetts’s senatorial election last January; and, last week, The New York Times said older voters are “significantly more enthusiastic about voting this year” than younger voters.
“It’s hard to imagine the youth vote will be as enthusiastic this time,” said Prof. Elizabeth Sanders, government. Sanders explained that, in midterm elections, “young people and minorities typically don’t turn out as much.”