FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Poll: College Students Politically Energized, Support Kerry

A study of college students conducted by Harvard University finds that students today are far more politically motivated than students in the past, more vested in political parties, more likely to be registered to vote... and are leaning strongly toward John Kerry.

The poll found that Kerry holds a 13-point lead over George W. Bush among college students -- a lead that appears to have grown since the spring. Women support Kerry very strongly, whereas males are evenly split between Kerry and Bush.

But what might be most remarkable is the "sea change" that the poll finds about political attitudes. The combination of the war in Iraq, the lingering possibility of a draft, realities of a post-9/11 world, concerns about the economy and a general sense that the country is "on the wrong track" have combined to make students more politically active. Topping that off is the 2000 election, which turned the phrase "every vote counts" from a cliche to a reality. As a result of this and other studies, experts predict strong voter turnout among college students in this election.

If this holds true, it could fundamentally change the way candidates campaign. In the past, candidates largely ignored college students, focusing more on senior citizens and other groups with active voting records. But now, candidates may want (or need) to hold rallies on campuses, organizing more aggressively in colleges and even high schools. Advertising might change as well, addressing the concerns of younger voters as well as their parents and grandparents. High interest among young people would appear to be an opportunity for candidates and parties to cultivate lifelong party loyalists.

Back in my college days, political interest was pretty minimal, and I was the only one I knew who bothered to vote. But those days seem to be gone. And if this study is correct, college students could have a substantial voice in a couple of weeks.