Wednesday, February 10, 1999

Voting rate for youths declining, study finds

Voting rate for youths declining, study finds
Downward trend continued in 1998
The Chicago Tribune
By Pamela Appea

Washington—Even though he’s preoccupied with LSATs, job interviews and school work, Howard University junior and Chicago native Louis Sterling believes in taking time to vote in every election because it’s his “responsibility as a citizen.”

The Washington student’s perspective is unusual among 18 - to 24-year-olds, according to a study released Wednesday. When it comes to government and politics, a majority of American youths are disengaged, disinterested and distrustful, according to the study by the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Across the nation, fewer than one in give 18 - to -24-year olds found their way to voting booths in the 1998 congressional elections, the study showed, and only 32 percent of youths voted in the 1996 presidential elections, continuing a downward trend since the voting age was lowed to 18 in 1971.

The research, conducted by the Tarrance Group and Lake, Snell, Perry & Associates, found “distrust, disinterest, and ignorance” among young people towards politics and government.

For instance, 58 percent of young people surveyed agreed with the statement, “You can’t trust politicians because most are dishonest.”

Being involved in a democracy and voting is “extremely important” to only 26 percent of young people.

William Gardner, president of the secretaries of state group, said the downward trend is “ a grave matter that will only get worse in time.”

The study conducted a national telephone survey of 1,005 people ages 18 to 24 in Iowa, Baltimore and Salt Lake City. In six focus group meetings, many participants said they felt too uninformed to vote, especially in congressional elections.

The difference in voting patterns between students and non-students was striking.

On college campuses, many student leaders said they felt frustrated with their peers’ lack of involvement.

Elizabeth Maki, president of the University of Chicago Republicans and a fourth-year English major, said, “I certainly believe that college students nowadays are becoming less politically involved than in previous years or decades.”

Maki noted that while involvement with the U of C Republicans has increased in recent years, only 30 to 40 students out of 3,5000 regularly attended political meetings and events.

More 18-to 24-year-olds are beginning to distance themselves from the Democratic and Republican parties, embracing independent status of the relatively new Reform party, the study showed.

For instance, almost half of voters under 30 in Minnesota voted for Reform Party candidate Jesse Ventura for governor last fall.

Originally published Wednesday, February 10, 1999