Young voters are wildcard in 2012 election, particularly in Florida

By on November 5th, 2012

Voters between the ages of 18 to 24 have been voting more in recent presidential elections, with an approximate 10 percent increase between 1996 and 2008.

The statistic would be impressive if this same age group did not still possess the lowest voter turnout rate.

Kéran Billaud / WUFT News

Students at the Romney table hands out information and shirts. Students use tables outside the Reitz Student Union to spread political messages leading up to Election Day.

Less than 50 percent of young men and women, between 18 and 24, vote during presidential elections, and even less during midterms. Yet the demographic is a target of the Obama and Romney campaigns. The 2000 election – decided at Florida’s polls and in a U.S. Supreme Court decision – hasn’t been forgotten.

The 2000 election’s 537-vote margin is the equivalent of one or two large classes at a public university here. The low turnout rate and the fact that Florida is a swing state have made Florida college students a sought-after wild card during this election.

Young voters have the potential to decide elections, but only about half vote. UF professor and elections expert Stephen Craig believes many of these young adults haven’t formed the voting habit: “They have many other things going on. Their lives are more important to them than politics.”

The ones who do vote make a difference. “Young people, especially those in college, are an important part of the Democratic base right now,” Craig said.

Billy Farrell, president of UF College Democrats, blames the low commitment to vote on ignorance. Farrell said, “Among young people, there is a cognizant belief that if people don’t feel informed on the issues they feel, they shouldn’t go out there and vote.”

Politics and elections dramatically impact young voters. In current elections and their future, Craig says they may be failing to understand how today’s issues will impact their lives later on, or don’t feel part of a community yet.

Student-run organizations have been trying to get students registered to vote in this election, but the Florida legislature passed restrictions in May 2011 on such organizations. The elections bill required organizations to turn in the forms of newly registered voters within 48 hours of completion, or pay a $1,000 fine.

Kéran Billaud / WUFT News

An Obama supporter counts student pledges to vote for the president during Tuesday's election.

The law was blocked in U.S. District Court in August, but Farrell said the restrictions discouraged the registration process during the months it was in place.

Dan Bergman, vice president of Students for Romney at UF, thinks the economy is the key issue for college students. Bergman says, “College students have lost confidence that when they leave their school that they will be able to get out and get a good job.” Less than half of the unemployed voted in the 2008 election, according to the U.S. Census.

Then, there are the college students who do not plan to cast their votes this election year. Some are from solid Republican or Democrat states, like Sarah Howard, a UF student from Alabama. She said the majority of her home state is Republican.

As an undecided voter, Howard said, “I don’t really trust Obama. And I guess I don’t really trust Romney either. So both of them, with the combination of where I am from, I just don’t see any reason to vote if I don’t particularly care for either one.”

Joanne Joseph contributed reporting.

This entry was posted in Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

More Stories in Politics


Former Wyoming Senator Speaks With Gainesville Chamber of Commerce

Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson spoke at the Gainesville Area Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday about the federal budget, tax code, Social Security and health care. Simpson discussed the nation’s fiscal situation and how it affects local businesses with Gainesville regional leaders.

Panel Discusses Mass Incarceration and Discrimination in Democracy

Students Taking Action Against Racism held a panel at the Bob Graham Center to discuss the issue of mass incarceration. Panelists lamented the lack of true due process in American society.


Why The Pope’s Visit to the U.S. Inspires Gainesville Catholics

Joel Ainsworth plays piano at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Wednesday morning. He said Pope Francis is welcoming more people to the Catholic Church. Elena Castello, a sophomore at UF, has wanted to see the pope since she was a young girl. […]

Kim Barton, director of outreach for the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office, registers a student at Santa Fe College to vote during National Voter Registration Day.

Gainesville Responds To Low Voter Turnout With Registration Drive

About 86,000 of the 140,000 registered voters in Gainesville voted in the last presidential election. In response to the low voter turnout rates, the city of Gainesville has partnered with the Florida Chamber of Commerce to offer a voter registration drive.

Florida Senate Approves Policy Change To Campus Concealed Carry

An amendment to the policy on concealed weapons on college campuses may be presented in the 2016 Florida legislative session. Already passed by Florida Senate and House committees, the policy needs to be approved by three more committees to be considered.

Thank you for your support

WUFT depends on the support of our community — people like you — to help us continue to provide quality programming to North Central Florida.
Become a Sustainer
I want to support FM 89.1/NPR
I want to support Florida's 5/PBS
Donate a Vehicle
Underwriting Payments