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Poll from Harvard Institute of Politics finds student voting for midterm elections at a low

By Iris Chen and Cristina Chang

Oct. 25, 2010 1:37 a.m.

Student participation in political elections has always been low, yet student participation in the upcoming election is expected to dip further than usual.

A recent poll from the Harvard Institute of Politics found that less than 27 percent of America’s 18- to 29-year-olds will vote for midterm elections, 9 percent less than was expected 11 months ago.

The upcoming election will simply represent a return to a more historical trend of low student turnout, said political science Professor Susanne Lohmann.

“The upcoming election is not an exception; rather, what was special (in 2008) was Obama as a black candidate (who) inspired young people in a way that other elections did not,” Lohmann said.

Lohmann noted that, compared to students, senior citizens, whose turnout is around 70 percent, have a lot more time on their hands to read about politics, be informed and exchange information with each other in retirement homes.

However, for some students it is not a lack of information that poses a problem.

“I am aware of the 2010 election because of all the campaigns and flyering on campus,” said Eddie Ly, a second-year psychobiology student.

But despite his interest in politics and his knowledge and awareness of the campaign, Ly did not register to vote because he said he does not believe his vote will matter.

Patrick Ahrens, marketing director for Bruin Democrats, said he thinks it would be a generalization to say college students will not be engaged for the upcoming election. He said more than 3,000 students on campus were registered by the Student Vote Coalition from the External Vice President’s Office.

“A lot of students have different reasons for being engaged; everyone has their own issue,” Ahrens said. He noted that students have reason to be interested in the governor’s and lieutenant governor’s races in particular because the candidates who are elected to these offices will serve on the UC Board of Regents, which has control over issues like fee increase.

For third-year political science student Clinton Eastman, who is a registered Republican, it is the Tea Party that has given him a reason to look forward to the upcoming election. He said he feels better about the candidates he is voting for this year because many of them support more limited forms of government and more conservative fiscal policies.

Many students are disappointed with the lack of change and transparency they have seen since Obama took office as well as the lack of bipartisanship, Eastman said.

“I feel I have a greater perspective of how the world works since 2008,” he said. “I’m open about who I support (and) I’m not ashamed to show it.”

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