For first-time voters, this year’s upcoming presidential election is not nearly as exciting as the last one. In a survey of 425 first-time voters from eight Washington, D.C., area universities, only 23 percent said they were “very excited” about this year’s election vs. 45 percent for the 2008 election.
The research, produced by students at American University’s School of Communication, also found that young voters 62 percent of young voters were “very likely” to vote in the election. Nearly two thirds would like to see Obama re-elected.
The AU journalism students reported, wrote and produced more than 20 stories based on the results. The project, called Voting Young, took a deep look at first-time voters. Stories explored a variety of topics, from college roommates with different political views to the challenges of being a member of one political party on a campus dominated by another. Videographers went into high school classrooms to capture new voters’ thoughts. Public Communication students conducted the survey.
The survey is unique in that all respondents are first-time voters, between 18 and 21 years of age. The students’ research also found that:
• 86 percent of young voters said they are very likely or somewhat likely to vote in November
• 69 percent believe voting is “a serious privilege”
• 76 percent think President Barack Obama will be reelected and 66 percent planned to vote for him in November
• The economy, jobs, education, health care, and national security are top concerns
While not scientific -- the respondents skewed female and leaned Democratic -- the survey reflects other polling and commentary about members of this demographic. For these Millenials, many of whom will soon journey out into the business world and seek jobs, the economy and its problems were foremost on their minds.
“What surprised me is that first-time voters are not excited for the 2012 election itself, but they are excited to vote,” Sylvia Carignan, one of the American University students who worked on the semester-long project. “To me, that says first-time voters want to get involved in the national political conversation, but the candidates and the media aren't addressing the issues they care about.”
Students were also asked about who or what influenced their political decisions. Candidates ranked first, followed by parents, media, friends and then social media. Nearly last – but ahead of professors in influence – were comedy shows.
The survey was conducted in March 2012 by students in Professor Maria Ivancin’s class in Public Communication Research. The stories, videos and timeline were produced by Amy Eisman’s Writing for Convergent Media class.
“Students love for their voices to be heard, so this project was a home run,” Eisman said. “The project should also serve as a wake-up call for campaigners who we think have a lot of work to do to reach these citizens.”
Ivancin called the project “an important contribution to understanding the views of young people, voting and the upcoming election. Our students were able to address the issue of the youth vote from an entirely unique perspective.”
You can find the data American University students generated from their survey, as well as the articles, videos and timeline at the website Voting Young.