For young U.S. voters, it’s still the economy

By WILL MENDELSON, MEDILL NEWS SERVICE, Written for UPI  |  Oct. 3, 2012 at 2:55 PM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Young Democrats and Republicans agree on one thing: The economy will mean both groups will turn out in full force at the polls.

Alyssa Farah, communications director for the College Republican National Committee, said that the financial crisis is leading to a huge turnout this election season for young Republicans.

"People want to portray young voters as being only interested in social issues but young people care especially about financial issues like youth unemployment that directly affect them," she said.

Lisa Stickan, chairwoman of the Young Republican National Federation, also said that the economy is a significant issue.

"Young people are tuned into this election because they are the ones who will suffer the most if the economy doesn't come back," said Stickan.

Tobin Van Ostern, policy manager for Campus Progress, a non-profit that promotes progressive causes, echoed the importance for the candidates to connect on the economy.

"Economy is still the No. 1 issue for young voters, just like the rest of the general voting population," said Van Ostern.

Youth-oriented political groups are expecting engagement on the issues to make a difference at the polls this fall.

Kenzi Green, national communications director for the College Democrats of America, said that student participation is at an all-time high.

"Young Americans know that this election is in their hands," said Green. "We're not backing down."

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement conducts research on young Americans' voting and political participation.

The center's research indicates 22.4 million young people aged 18-29 voted in the 2008 election, up by 2 million from 2004. This group makes up 21.3 percent of the total eligible voter population in 2012.

In 2008, young voters accounted for a large portion of the presidential vote. A reason for the significantly high voter turnout in 2008 was largely due to Obama's popularity among young voters, exit polls indicated.

This election is very important for our generation," said Kareem J.F. Lyder, co-founder of Night Life Executives, a lifestyle marketing and event planning company. "One of our aims as a company is to be socially responsible in promoting civic engagement of our communities."

Maya Whitfield, a student at Spelman College in Atlanta who said she plans to vote for Obama, is curious to see how the economy will be debated in the upcoming weeks, including the debates between Vice President Joe Biden and Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan.

"I'm excited to see where the debate goes on college costs, taxes and changing Washington," Whitefield said.

Jamie Lampert, a student at the University of Illinois who said she plans to vote for Romney, said she's watching the debates for issues like the economy and healthcare.

"I feel that these topics are where each candidate is trying to get undecided voters to sway their side," said Lampert.

Follow us on Twitter at @UPIDebates for complete coverage of the 2012 Presidential Debates.

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