Study of young voters shows liberal focus

Ozie Ikuenobe

A Hiram College study of 180 to 29-year-olds showed the majority of people in that age group are more likely to vote Democratic or Independent because politicians in those groups tend to focus more on issues that pertain to them.

The study also showed that 50 percent of the group had a favorable opinion of President Obama and unfavorable opinions of the Tea Party and the Occupy movements.

Jason Johnson, a political science and communications professor at Hiram who headed up the study, said it was surprising that young voters felt this way about the movements and it shows they’re unhappy with the options presented in the current campaigns.

Johnson also said a lot of young people’s concerns are rooted in the difficulty they have going to college or finding jobs after college in the current economy.

“All too often, young people are just completely ignored when it comes to voting,” he said. “This is actually a demographic that has some very unique issues, some very unique policy concerns and desires that aren’t being addressed by those polls. We’re tapping into a massive group here, the most diverse and influential voting bloc in America today and it doesn’t receive a lot of attention.”

Johnson said a reason a young person might vote Republican instead of Democrat or Independent is because of the home or environment they were raised in or the fact that they did not get a higher education, changing their political priorities.

“As we get into our late 20s, that’s when the individual financial circumstances that people are facing start to impact how they vote,” he said. “If you left the home at 16, 17 years old and you’ve been working the last 12 years, you’re going to have a very different set of opinions about Republicans and Democrats than if you’re someone who left home at 18, went to college and came back home and went to grad school.”

Avery Danage, senior educational studies major, said that he agreed with the results of the young voter study.

“Things that the Democratic Party tackles are issues that we [college students] worry about,” he said. “Examples of that would be higher education, loans, Pell grants, things like that. The legislation that we see introduced — cutting down on that stuff or negatively impacting that kind of stuff — are all introduced, for the most part, by the Republican Party.”

Michael Ensley, a political science professor, said that while it is true that people’s political views are deeply affected by how they grew up and what their parents’ views are, he doesn’t think certain issues people have are that big of a driving factor as to which party they choose.

“Certainly I think you find that younger people are more Democratic and liberal,” he said. “Although I don’t think that’s a huge discrepancy or a huge gap.”

Bryan Staul, a junior political science major and the senator-at-large for USG, said that when registering students to vote, a lot of people he encountered were Democrats.

“Students are more attracted to the Democratic, more liberal-minded or progressive-minded causes,” he said. “And that’s really because the Democratic Party is the party to increase federal funding for education, lower tuition, get more Pell grants, more affordable housing, [and] the economy’s typically better when Democrats are in control, therefore college is more affordable.”

Staul said young people voting Democrat is the same as any other subset choosing to vote with a specific viewpoint in mind.

“We want to vote [for someone] who has our interests and who will make our lives easier,” he said. “[Someone] who makes the economy better when we get out of college and makes it more affordable while we’re in college,” he said.

Contact Ozie Ikuenobe at [email protected].