June 5, 2020

Students vote for first time in presidential election

Olivia Murphy was too young to vote in the 2008 presidential election, but she still found a way to participate.

“I canvassed for (Barack) Obama,” Murphy said. “I was knocking on doors, hanging flyers on them and telling people that it was Election Day.”

Murphy, a sophomore women’s studies and video production double major, will exercise her right to vote this year.

“I’ve always felt like I should vote and that I want to vote,” Murphy said. “There’s really no good reason not to, I haven’t heard a lot of them.”

Murphy is just one of approximately 16.8 million young people eligible to vote for the first time in this year’s election, according to an analysis of census data by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University.

According to an Election Day poll by Reuters/Ipsos, first -time voters said they supported President Barack Obama by a two-to-one margin. The poll also reported first-time voters are more likely to believe the United States is on the right track.

The poll also reported two out of 10 first-time voters said jobs were their primary concern.

Both campaigns have tried to capitalize on these new voters. They have reached out via social media, canvassing and phone banks.  Both Murphy and freshman film production major Lucas Lowman said they received numerous calls from campaign supporters.

“I’ve been contacted by both (campaigns),” Lowman said. “I only got, like, one email from each, but I got a ton of calls at my house and on my cell phone. They were actual people. It was actually really cool. I was very surprised.”

Lowman was also too young to vote in the 2008 presidential election. He said he’s excited to finally participate in the election process this year.

“I guess it’s a right, but I feel like it’s our duty as American citizens to take part in where our country goes,” said Lowman.

Gwyneth Williams, political science professor, said the current political atmosphere on campus isn’t the same as it was in the 2008 election. She felt the students weren’t as fired up for this year’s election.

“There was a lot more excitement in 2008,” Williams said. “Students were having meetings, they were bringing speakers in, they were having rallies.”

A July Gallup poll showed only 58 percent of registered youth voters (age 18-29) said they were likely to vote in the presidential election. The number is down 20 percent from similar polls taken just before the 2008 election.  Williams said the lack of enthusiasm was evident at Webster.

“This year I haven’t seen students doing anything,” Williams said.  “The Democrats had a few meetings, the Republicans had a few meetings, but turnout at the debate watch parties has been low.”

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