Nov. 6 will be like every other Tuesday for sophomore Paige Hagopian. She said she plans to go to class, study in the library and work out at the gym.
Nowhere in her plans is a visit to the polling place. She does not plan to participate in this year’s Election Day, she said.
“I didn’t register this year because I don’t have an opinion strong enough to make a decision on it,” she said. “It’s not something I’m interested in because I think a lot of politicians are corrupt and politics seems like something people like to complain about.”
Hagopian is part of an age group that has consistently turned out at a lower rate to the polls than older age groups, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
Sophomore Jimmy Gravalis said he would have liked to vote but he didn’t register when he was home in New Jersey for fall break. He also declined to change his registration state to Virginia.
“I saw all the tables of students trying to get people to register,” Gravalis said. “But I just figured that they wanted me to register for their political party, so I didn’t want to align myself one way or the other.”
According to a Gallup Poll this summer, only 58 percent of registered voters between the ages of 18 and 29 said they were “definitely likely” to vote. This is down from 78 percent who said they would vote in 2008.
“Young people do not seem to have the same enthusiasm they did four years ago,” said Ernest McGowen, a University of Richmond political science professor. “I do not think this trend is particular to young people. Most Democrat and Independent voters in Virginia — more young people tend to be Democrat — are registering lower enthusiasm for the race, likely because the overall mood of the country is down.”
Political science professor Dan Palazzolo said young people had been very involved in 2008 because of the nature of Obama’s campaign.
“Young people were very engaged by the movement -oriented campaign Obama ran in 2008,” Palazzolo said. “The campaign of hope, change and bipartisanship of 2008 no longer works.”
McGowen said it was important for young voters to get out and vote to make their voices heard.
“You would not want your life, 15 to 20 years from now, affected by your sitting on the sidelines this November,” McGowen said.
Rhetoric professor Timothy Barney teaches a class at Richmond this semester on the 2012 elections. Young voter turnout will have an affect in the Virginia Senate race between Tim Kaine and George Allen, Barney said.
“I do think that young people out of college getting their first or second jobs and starting families in Virginia could really be an important part of the outcome,” Barney said.
The two candidates, Kaine and Allen, agreed that it was important for young voters to care about this election.
“This election is about your future,” Allen said. “And whether young people in college today or just starting out in their careers will have the same opportunities that prior generations of Americans had growing up.”
The choices in the election are clear, and they both offer different visions for the future, Kaine said.
“I want to ensure all Americans, especially young people entering the workforce have job opportunities that fully use their skills and talents,” Kaine said.
Contact staff writer Scott Himelein at firstname.lastname@example.org