Election 'mania' missing on college campuses

What a difference four years can make.
Associated Press
Sep 26, 2012


In 2008, college campuses were filled with campaign posters and political rallies — and frenzy. Remember "Obamamania?" This year, it's difficult to find a college student who's truly excited about the presidential race.

"Politics has gone back to that thing you don't want to bring up," says Abraham Mulberry. He's a freshman at Elmhurst College in suburban Chicago who's trying to start a club for young Democrats.

Last election, his campus had an active Students for Obama chapter, organized well before the election. But this time, there's nary a campaign placard, for either President Barack Obama or Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

"I wouldn't say the election is the No. 1 hot-button issue here," Mulberry says, disappointedly.

Granted, you don't see many signs of campaign enthusiasm in the neighborhoods that surround his campus, or elsewhere for that matter. But it's telling that, on many college campuses across the country — where, in 2008, then-candidate Obama's messages of "hope" and "change" easily took hold — the mood is markedly more subdued.

"Certainly, some (young people) have stopped believing," says Molly Andolina, a political scientist at DePaul University in Chicago who tracks young voters. "Maybe that's inevitable. For structural reasons, it's easier to offer hope and change as a candidate, than as a president."

Excitement was so high, it really had nowhere to go but down, she says. This time, there's also no obvious chance to make history, as there was when students helped elect the country's first African-American president.

"For young voters, it was like going to Woodstock in 1968," says John Della Volpe, the polling director at Harvard University's Institute of Politics.

Now like a lot of Americans, they're more worried about the economy and finding jobs. Voter ID laws in some states, which ban or restrict the use of student IDs at the polls, also are causing confusion on campuses — at a time when students are already weary and cynical about political bickering in Washington.

"Lots of people thought President Obama could go in and break gridlock and that didn't happen," says Ethan Weber, a senior at Miami University in Ohio, who'll be graduating in December. "That's the scariest thing to a lot of young people — that nothing is going to happen."

In 2008, Weber cast a half-hearted vote for Republican John McCain, certain Obama would win. This time, he's voting for Romney and sees the election as a "toss-up."

He is still in the minority in the 18- to 29-year-old age group, according to polls. Young people are leaning strongly Democratic, as they traditionally do, and favor Obama by a wide margin — though some pollsters say the youngest new voters are showing signs that they may buck that trend.

An Associated Press-GfK poll conducted earlier this month found that 61 percent of registered voters in the 18-to-29 bracket support the president, compared with 30 percent for Romney.

In 2008, young people ended up voting for Obama by a 2-to-1 margin, with just over half of U.S. citizens, ages 18 to 29, casting a ballot in 2008. Though older generations are still more likely to vote — about two-thirds of citizens older than 30 did so in 2008, for instance — youth turnout was larger than it had been in recent years, and was particularly notable because their wide margin of support helped lift Obama into office.

It remains to be seen, however, whether they'll show up at the polls this time.

A Gallup poll taken Aug. 27-Sept. 16 found that 63 percent of registered voters, ages 18 to 29, said they "definitely" plan to vote. That compares with at least 80 percent of registered voters in older age brackets who said the same.

By comparison, before the election in 2008, 79 percent of young registered voters said they definitely planned to cast a ballot, according to a Time/Abt SRBI poll, taken in later September of that year. Older voters were about as committed to vote then as they are this time. (Among self-reported registered voters, turnout in 2008 was 84 percent for 18- to 29-year-olds, according to the U.S. Census, compared with 91 percent for older voters. Those percentages are higher than the overall vote percentages above because they don't include citizens who never registered to vote.)

After that banner turnout, Allison Byers, a 25-year-old in San Francisco, finds young Americans' waning commitment to vote in this election frustrating.

"It kind of breaks my heart," says Byers, who works in communications at an arts college and was an active organizer for the Obama campaign in 2008, when she was a junior at Virginia Tech.

Even she concedes that she's feeling more "realistic" than excited about this election — her optimism tempered by the difficulties the nation and the president have faced in the last four years. But she remains committed to him.

"There are always reasons to be disenchanted and unenthusiastic," she says. "But you have to keep fighting the good fight."

It's important to note, though, that for a whole new crop of eligible voters — those who weren't yet 18 in November 2008 — this will be the first time they're able to cast a ballot.

And that has Della Volpe at Harvard wondering if the enthusiasm gap may be, at least partly, the result of a "growing schism" between older and younger millennials, the age group so named because they've reached adulthood in the new millennium.

Older millennials came of age amid the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and Hurricane Katrina, sparking some to become more civically and politically engaged. Meanwhile, "the political awakening of the younger millennials is happening during the recession," Della Volpe says.

How that will affect them, or influence this election, remains to be seen.

But already, Della Volpe and his staff have found that Obama holds a wider margin of support among older twentysomethings than with potential voters who are 18 to 24 — especially 18- and 19-year-olds.

Whether Republicans know that, or whether they simply noted young voters' influence on the last election, they have been spending more time courting college students lately.

Republican Paul Ryan, being framed as the "younger" vice presidential candidate, has spent time on campuses recently. George P. Bush, son of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, also has been making the rounds at colleges and universities in his state, to try to generate interest in Republicans.

That is "a very, very astute move" by Republicans, Della Volpe says.

They won't win the youth vote, he predicts. "But they might win the white 18- to 24-year-old vote — and they could block some additional gains that Obama might make."

It means a lot depends on these next few weeks, especially since studies have shown that young voters are often late to engage in an election, even in a presidential year.

"Young voters tend to make up their minds about whether they will vote — and for whom — much later than older voters," says Brian Harward, a political scientist who heads the Center for Political Participation at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania.

So voter registration drives are continuing in earnest, as are education campaigns to try to allay the confusion over which IDs students can use when voting. In states such as Pennsylvania, where a voter ID law remains in limbo, colleges and universities are issuing expiration stickers for student IDs, so they can be used at the polls.

In the absence of as many student-driven campaign activities, schools such as Elmhurst College also have created a calendar of fall political events — debate viewing parties and forums for congressional candidates, among them.

"I am still taken aback that students haven't really thought about the election that much," says Ian Crone, Elmhurst's associate dean of students.

He only hopes that, before Nov. 6, more of them will do so.



The Big Dog's back

It was alive and well at BGSU today. Gobama Gobama Gobama.


LOL. I was there bigdog providing medical coverage at the event. I have to laugh because either you weren't there, or you are so enamored by the President that you failed to see that most students looked less than enthusiastic, in fact they looked bored. Several I talked to stated that the only reason they attended was because it was an excused absence from class.


The college kids learned a good lesson in the last election. You can hope in one hand and crap in the other when expecting a politician to actually do anything. Hopefully they recognize that a "Community Organizer" who once worked in the most crime ridden city, With no training whatsoever cannot and will not give two craps about them as they watch him and his wife run off to another couple million dollar vacations on thier dime.


Unfortunately Obama did have training as a Community Organizer. He is using what he learned in Chicago to change our country. Also, he used it to get elected and is using it to get re-elected. He went to Chicago in the 80s to be a community organizer. He worked there for about four years. The training manual for organizers is a book written by Saul Alinsky who wrote it to instruct organizers how to change communities. There is a quick-read summary of the book on the internet that covers what Obama learned to do.


or Google Rules for Radicals and look for the one with the second line that has the word crossroad.

I wish everyone knew about his work experience.


I was refering to his actual training as someone in a executive position. He knows propaganda and how to incite but nothing about leading. Unless you consider campaigning and completly avoiding all mention of his "accomplishments" leading.


Randy, Let me know if you read the link. What he learned from Alinsky's rules is how to ACT as though he is more than he is.


I read the link. Most who research things knew this in 2008. He lived up to it as well by useing almost every tactic that can be used. He was groomed for the position at a very early age. Too bad no one listened back them and continues not to listen. I hate to think of what a radical with no chance of being re-elected will do. As he said "I will have more flexability my second term" Gives me shivers to think whats ahead if he wins.

The Big Dog's back

They looked pretty enthused to me yawn. 4 more years.


Since this is a state university, funded with taxpayer dollars, are they going to provide equal time for a pro-conservative speaker also?

The New World Czar

I was down on the OSU campus within the last month for a football game. Back in 2008 there were Obama-supported booths up to register student voters on corners of intersections, signs in windows and yards. Not the same this time around, a few signs here and there...just like around here. Too much of a hangover from the blue Kool-Aid.

2cents's picture

The kids are lost! Youth tend to support the dems but this time they see nothing but disapointment. I will not sat that Mr. Romney is the magic bullet, what I will say is that 4 more years of the current president and our country may be close to another revolution. People are afraid, they are afraid of politics in general. You do not see polititions accountable for poor decisions, if I make one I could loose my business, my home, my freedom, all of it. If a politition makes one they typicaly have plenty to fall back on to live their life in comfort.

You see fear in these young people, I see it in my daughter that just started college, fear of the future that is being played with by polititions like a chess game.

Just saying!


Blame yourself for that fear. Did you tell her the American dream awaits her? The youth these days feel entitled to what wealth others created. How would you lose your freedom? Plan on becoming a criminal? Just hope she does well in college and McDonalds is still hiring! Some really forget where this country was four years ago and how it got there but hey, who cares about facts?


I watched much of Obama's speech on TV. The audience of 5000+ appeared to listen attentively, and cheered loudly at the appropriate times. He is up by almost 10 points in some Ohio polls, so clearly a majority of people have realized just what a Mitt Romney presidency would wreak upon the middle class.

Can't remember the exact words Obama used, but he described Romney as the fox who wants to guard the middleclass henhouse. Since Romney wants to abolish mortgage deductions and tuition credits towards our federal taxes, and plans to cut educational funding and funding for college Pell grants, Obama certainly hit the nail on the head.


Your next tax return filing.............deduction for tuition and fees will not be availalbe; tax credits for education will be limited; student loan interest deduction will be disallowed for many families. That's happening NOW under the CURRENT president, nothing to do with Romney, can't believe everything you're told.

Also, Obama's tax reduction plan also included eliminating the mortgage interest deduction, and replacing it with a low percentage credit for interest paid......so he didn't tell the whole story.


Did you read the link I put on about Obama's use of Rules for Radicals? That link tells you exactly what Obama has been doing. The one tactic he uses in such a slick way is Tactic 5 - "Ridicule is man's most potent weapon. It is almost impossible to counteract ridicule. Also it infuriates the opposition, which then reacts to your advantage." That is what Obama keeps doing to Romney and people are falling for it. Unfortunately, it works -- just as it did on you. We have a choice between a radical and a former governor/businessman. How can the American people choose the radical? We will pay dearly for that.


I tried, I really tried to watch Mitt's speech in Toledo on TV tonight. After 2 minutes, I gave up. Couldn't stand to listen to someone who sounds so unbelieveably disingenuous - in Mitt's fantasy world, he is actually a friend to the middle class. The reality of course, is that his tax plan will increase taxes to middle class folks, so that his rich friends at the top can get a tax CUT. Perhaps Mitt should stick to what he is truly good at: hiding his money in Swiss bank accounts and in the Caymans, and outsourcing American jobs to China.


No wonder you are uneducated about the problems facing the US. For someone with a supposedly open mind you are awefully closed minded. Do you get all your news off comedy channel or just Bill Maher? Wanna see disingenous you only have to look as far the debt ceiling, Remember raising the debt ceiling is a failure of leadership.


Harry Truman was the only president that never raised the debt ceiling. It was raised 18 times during the Reagan administration. Still wanna call it a failure of leadership?


@ buckeye15:

Pres. Truman? The U.S. was winding down deficit war spending.

Pres. Reagan? Let's conveniently forget which party controlled Congress.

Wanna yammer about history or be in the present?

2012 - the govt. will run out of money sometime around Dec. if the debt ceiling ($16.394 trillion) isn't raised again.

Tax the rich? LMAO!!!


I was quoting the president who said raising the debt limit was a failure of leadership in 2008. I happen to agree that it is a failure when every economist on earth is saying the usustainable debt is going to crush us and instead of doing anything constructive such as working with congress. He ends up on The View or letterman. That to me is not leading, That is avoiding.


Obama has been demeaning Congress since he got in. He started calling them the do-nothing Congress and people believed him. The House has sent the Senate many bills, including a jobs bill, and Reid will not bring them to the floor. They are supposed to debate the bills and come to agreement. Obama doesn't want to do that, so Reid won't bring them up for debate, and they are still sitting in the Senate. People are so busy blaming Congress for the stalemates because of Obama's ridicule and he totally escapes any blame.


Who can get excited about the lessor of two evils?


It amazes me how some are looking for the same enthusiasm as in '08. It's a different ball game now people. The country would be better if everyone had worked together instead of against each other. IMO, the failure of leadership was in congress. It's always wiser to go with the devil you know as oppose to the one you don't. I think our President has done a good job considering what he was up against.


@ deertracker:

The Dem Congress '09 -'10 'did' work with Pres. Obama to pass stimulus.

Too bad the "shovel ready" jobs weren't shovel ready huh?

"Good job"? Any "fool" can oversee print, borrow, tax and spend, spend, spend.

Besides, the Federal Resv. is keeping this economy on life support.

With all his blaming, fault finding and whining, if Pres. Obama were an NFL football coach he'd be in the unemployment line.


Until you admit that you made money under this administration, your comments have no credibility. NONE! You love to go on your professorial rant as if you have lost so much but you know the exact opposite has happened. Keep it real please!


@ deertracker:

My investible assets have appreciated under ALL recent administrations and would under a Pres. Romney one as well. REAL.

It ain't about the politics sport. And someone that had even a limited understanding of economics and personal finance would know that.

For a start, go down to the library and pick up (and read) a copy of: "Rich Dad, Poor Dad."

Education is power.


You are not being honest. The stock market lost trillions under the last admin....you included...that's REAL! Someone with limited understanding of economics would know this...why don't you? Education is power, that's why I recognize BS. Yours in particular. You are so FULL of it yet you insist on making a complete fool of yourself.


@ deertracker:

The lack of understanding concerning economics and personal finance in the richest country in the world is pathetic.

You only tend to 'lose' when you sell low.

Investment "tip": Buy low, sell high. REAL

'Seriously,' go get the book as a primer.

It'll be kinda like 'actually' reading the Bible and finding out that a lot of that "stuff" that they told you on Sunday ain't in there.

Or, you can just keep goin' to church and continue to listen to everything that the cult leader has been preaching. All he wants is your obedience and your money.

Organized religion, like politics is a racket. I choose to be free. REAL


What amazes me is that I believe this past week,more people were concerned about the replacement refs in the NFL then they were about the state of our country. If we all were as passionate about fixing our country's problems as they are about fixing football, we would be so much better off. "2cents" good post.


The obama supporters sure look enthusiastic in bedford.
Dont know if they are getting free "Foams" Or ""Phones" But im assuming the latter.


Just found this https://www.youtube.com/watch?fe... Guess they are paying 11 bucks a hour to be enthusiastic, Did you get paid to be happy Dog?

The Big Dog's back

Watching movies again ehh rand.


Did you like them? Are you IN them perhaps?

The New World Czar

C'mon, pup- how do you defend this one...or do you have an Obamaphone as well?