Will young voters go to the polls in November?

Jessica Puente Contributor
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Will America’s youth come to the polls in November for the midterm elections like they did for the presidential election in 2008? It depends who you ask.

While an April Gallup poll suggests there will not be a heavy turnout of young voters this year, a recent poll of 18-29 year olds conducted by Rock the Vote, an organization that registers young people to vote, found that 77 percent of respondents indicated that their likelihood of voting this cycle is at least somewhat strong.

Even with its optimistic outlook on youth turnout for November, however, the Rock the Vote survey wasn’t all positive, with respondents saying that they feel more cynical about the political process now than they did in 2008.

“Nearly 60 percent of young people say they are more cynical about politics but 83 percent believe they have the power to change things in this country – [a] key connect to the likelihood to vote,” said John Anzalone, pollster from Anzalone Liszt.

The study conducted by Rock the Vote also suggests young voters are more concerned with issues than political parties, though the survey did indicate that young voters are more likely to support a candidate endorsed by President Obama than one endorsed by Sarah Palin or the Tea Party.

But a Gallup poll of 18-29 year olds showed more than half of those surveyed were not enthusiastic about voting this year.

The poll further showed that the enthusiasm gap between people aged 18-29 and older adults aged 30+ has doubled since the 2008 presidential election, suggesting the high number of young voters we saw in the past election will not be repeated this year.

Political analysts say this is hardly unexpected.

“There is always falling off between a presidential election and a midterm. Young voters show a more precipitous drop off than usual because they came out to support Obama,” said Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

According to pollster Kristen Soltis of the Winston Group, young voters are frustrated and have washed their hands of both parties. Nonetheless, she said, young voters will remain a very important group because they are seen as up for grabs by both political parties.

Even if youth voters don’t flood the polls this November like they did two years ago, they can still have an impact this cycle, according to some political analysts.

“Thoughtful messaging and appropriate targeting could yield a significant level of support with these voters,” said conservative pollster Brian Nienaber, who worked on the Rock the Vote survey.

In a statement, Peter Levine, director of the Center for Information and Research on Civil Learning and Engagement, said that the youth vote could be strong in various states or for specific races.

“This midterm election the youth voter turnout could also vary widely state-by-state depending on the number and intensity of statewide and local elections,” he said.