Politicians can talk until they are red, white and blue in the face, but according to Augustana freshmen, that isn’t going to cut it this year.
As the country gears up for another presidential election, new voters are not necessarily gearing up right along with them.
This trend may prove a problem for both parties in the 2012 election. With both sides seeking as many votes as possible, government professor Joel Johnson said young voters are crucial “if they turn out in numbers like they did the last time.”
But will they?
Many freshmen are disenchanted with this election already. The campaigning, the debates, the back-and-forth, the “mudslinging,” said freshman Keegan Carda.
Freshman Jordan Lindberg said that campaigning causes interpersonal problems. “I don’t like the issues it creates and the division of people,” he said.
Lindberg is not alone. In fact, several Augustana students cited a shift towards more intense partisanship as a reason that politics do not entice them to participate. So much so, that some students feel inclined not to participate at all.
This is the case with freshman Mallory Edwards, who is not registered to vote.
“I just didn’t take the time to do it,” she said. She’s not alone, either. According to Project Vote, a program dedicated to reporting on voter participation, only 49 percent of the 3.7 million 18-year-olds in America actually bothered to register to vote in the 2008 presidential election.
Johnson said that young voters are somewhat less likely to show up for the 2012 election. The 2008 election is history. “Young voters now are a little bit more skeptical than they were the last time around,” Johnson said.
However, Johnson does acknowledge that those who do not vote are not necessarily apathetic citizens. “Young people are becoming increasingly concerned,” he said. “They care about the outcome. They may not be sure who to vote for, but they see that it is important.”
This rising political awareness is showcased in the underclassmen membership rates of the Augustana political clubs.
According to Scott Hofer, a representative for Augustana Democrats, membership this year is up slightly, with 45 freshmen and a few upperclassmen joining the club. Hofer attributes this increase in membership to the upcoming election.
The Augustana Republicans are smaller in number, with six new freshmen, which club representative Jesse Fonkert said is above average compared to the past. Upperclassmen, however, are showing up in bigger numbers than before, he said.
These youth know who they’re voting for. Freshmen outside of Augustana’s political clubs have decided, too.
Anna Tims, a freshman, is one such person. Who is she voting for? “Romney,” she said. “I just think the big thing is the budget to me, and the Obama administration hasn’t fixed it… we need to get some new ideas.”
Tims recognizes that the Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan is a budget man, and believes electing a Republican would be “a step in the right direction.”
Freshman Ashley Schurr disagrees. Obama, Schurr said, has good ideas. “And from what I hear, the other guy’s not very smart,” she said.
Tims and Schurr agree on one thing however: the budget needs fixing, now. “They need to figure out how to pay for all this debt we’re in, or our generation will be screwed,” Schurr said. In regards to voting, they agree that no matter which candidate students support, voting is important.
Freshman Will Reynolds agrees.
“If things are going to go in the direction we want them to go in this country, everybody needs to have a say,” he said.
“I’m really hopeful for how things turn out. Or scared.” But no matter what, Reynolds said, “I just hope whoever wins has the best interests of the country at the forefront of their mind.”