By Joe Petrizzo
America’s next generation has spoken and its opinion won’t jive well with Republicans. A poll conducted by Dr. Michael Brogan’s political behavior class revealed that 68 percent of Rider students voted for President Barack Obama, while only 28 percent endorsed Gov. Mitt Romney.
This trend is not unique to Rider; according to CNN, 60 percent of voters aged 18-29 nationwide cast their ballots for Obama, while only 37 percent supported Romney. Young voters made up 19 percent of the electorate — up from 18 percent in 2008. Although the percentage of young people who voted for Obama dropped slightly from the last election, Brogan suggests they will form an increasingly larger part of the Democratic voting base.
Before the election, speculation arose that young voters would not show up at the polls.
But according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, about half of all eligible young people voted. The Rider survey found that 92 percent of students who voted for Obama in 2008 voted for him again this year, while Romney only retained 89 percent of John McCain voters.
According to Brogan, young voters – along with African-Americans, Hispanics and women – will continue to make up the Democratic Party core.
“The results suggest that younger voters have significant, but often untapped, influence in the manner in which the country is governed,” Brogan said. “The Democratic Party will look to these voters as a key component of the Obama coalition going into future elections, similar to the New Deal coalition which emerged among voters who came of age during FDR’s tenure in office.”
The results would have been even more favorable of Obama if more students had voted. According to the Rider poll, the president would have received 72 percent of the vote from students who didn’t show up to the polls. The No. 1 reason students gave for not voting was “I felt my vote did not count.” Freshman political science and global studies major Rachel Safer surveyed these non-voters and was not only shocked that 20 percent of the respondents to the postelection poll didn’t vote, but also the fact that some of them didn’t even know how to vote if they wanted to.
“[I] was surprised by how many first-time voters were unaware of voting protocol,” she said. “Many students did not register or forgot to register. I was also surprised by the lack of enthusiasm by eligible first-time voters.”
Another surprising discovery, according to senior political science major Justin Dennis, is that 68 percent of students chose their candidate “sometime earlier” than September, while only 3 percent decided within the “last three days” of the campaign. Brogan notes that this means that the presidential debates and other advertisements had little effect on the outcome at least where young voters are concerned.
“It is funny how early voters make up their minds, which leads me to believe that campaigns are more important to those [who] fund them than those who follow them,” Dennis said.
The economy was listed as the most important issue for Rider students with 78.1 percent saying it was extremely important. Education placed second with 72.8 percent saying it extremely important. Unemployment ranked third with 70.3 percent.
“As Rider goes, so does the nation” might never become the thesis statement for a dissertation, but the trends noted indicate that the opinions of students, much like the ones at Rider, will have a significant impact on on elections and government.
Printed in the 12/7/12 edition.