Education / Politics

College Students: the Demographic that is Ignored and Ignores

Candidates who want to attract the young vote, primarily 18-24 year-olds, have the difficult task of making politics exciting and interesting. There are many reasons for overwhelmingly poor voting turnout from this age range, but it is mostly because very few candidates attempt to reach these voters and are largely out of touch with this demographic.

However, candidates need to recognize just how integral their votes are. Consider this example:

At the University of Minnesota, twin cities, there is a student organization called Student DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor). It’s objective is to get Democrats elected. In the 2004 Presidential Election, Student DFL launched a successful Get Out The Vote (GOTV) campaign that included door knocking for candidates and performing literature drops for the entire party. The campaign produced an 80% turn out on campus.

Overall, getting involved in a student organization like this (disregarding political affiliation) helps not just the candidates get votes; it helps (and will help) the students themselves. Members of such organizations not only build their resume, but they gain experience and valuable insight into the workings of the political world.

This may just be what the candidates need to preach to this demographic: how being involved and voting benefits “me as well as you.”

As a college kid one joins a club for the enjoyment as well as the perks. Whether it’s professional development, networking events and/or leadership opportunities, a club will be an asset to the student as well as candidate. Thus, the candidate needs to think like a college student and appeal to these kinds of aspirations that young voters have.

The right, especially, is not doing a good enough job at appealing to these voters. Many generally think that institutions of higher learning are left-leaning in nature and their students are left-leaning by default. However, one needs to take into consideration the right, and perhaps even more importantly, the center-right that may comprise the silent majority of a college campus.

This begs the question: how does the center-right appeal to its constituents? Candidates could focus on fiscal responsibility and the debt –how the retirement of their parents and the financial obligation of paying for their social security seems like an impending doom on an already downtrodden job market. This may shed a whole new light on government spending and its slippery slope.

So, why aren’t candidates appealing to this age group? And/or, why aren’t politics appealing to college kids? One simple answer may be that college students are just not interested. Another is that they are made to feel unimportant because they think candidates aren’t addressing their needs.

Moreover, college kids may just not be informed enough about the issues at hand. Instead of just being offered views and spots in clubs at their respective colleges that are left-leaning, it would be a beneficial to provide right-leaning clubs. This way students are exposed to differing view points so they can make their own objective decisions – rather than just listening to what their professors and/or parents say and taking it as absolute fact (which is a whole different story).

College kids are consumers, too –consumers of education. Why not try to educate a group that is used to hearing lectures and forced to analyze costs and benefits, whether it be through writing a term paper or handling a real-life situation? College aged-voters need to make their own informed decisions and candidates can help achieve this by speaking at an array of colleges and helping to implement/fund such clubs/organizations on campuses.

Candidates could preach that even though it’s easy to tune-out politics, it’s so important to realize it’s your future and money at stake. When already in debt from student loans, emphasizing the importance of the economy and making smart choices to earn back that money will not go in one ear and out the other. Students put ample amounts of money and time into college in the hopes they land a job and make good money upon graduation; thus their political decisions, and their peers’, affect them first-hand.

All in all, candidates need to realize they are targeting different audiences all around the country and he/she can’t ignore the 18-24 year old demographic. Likewise, this demographic shouldn’t, and really can’t, ignore the candidates that have control of many factors that will strongly influence their lives whether it be now or in the future.

I urge both college students, and young voters in general, to get to know the facts, get involved, and get out and vote. Somehow, in some way, politics affects everyone.  Young voters are in college and putting in the time, money, and work to be successful. Let’s make sure that their college experiences are not in vain; and that their voting power is used to make wise decisions.

-Allie Greiwe

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