Young voters turned out in huge numbers four years ago, helping to propel Barack Obama to victory. But this year, polls show that America’s youth are less motivated and enthusiastic. What local, state and national issues matter most to young voters in this election? For the past several months, KQED has been talking to college students at Bay Area campuses. We’ll hear their voices and talk to experts about the youth vote.

Young Voters Speak Out on Social Media

Voices of Young Voters Project

Voices of Young Voters 30 October,2012forum

Jason Johnson, professor of political science and communications at Hiram College
Lisa Garcia Bedolla, professor of education at UC Berkeley; her books include "Latino Politics" and "Mobilizing Inclusion: Transforming the Electorate through Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns"
Thomas Moyer, vice president of the San Francisco Young Republicans, California State Republican delegate, blogger and author of the "Conservative Survival Guide to San Francisco"
Sam Patton, with the League of Young Voters

  • $2870056

    Bring back the draft (for men and women this time). Young people in my day (1960s, Viet Nam) had a “stake” in the present and future, regardless of family income, political party, or workforce experience.

    These kids who say “I’m in college now and this just doesn’t have an impact on my life” are in for a very rude awakening, the day after graduation.

  • Parisa

    I’m an undecided voter among the third party candidates and recently out of school. I have $148K in student loans. People say “at least you invested in yourself and your future,” but the investment doesn’t come to bear when there are no salary-appropriate jobs to even help with base loan payments, much less saving for the future. The amount I can pay just to keep up with my loans is overshadowed by the interest that is tacked on. So, by tax time, I see that my loan has only gone down $200 when I’ve paid thousands throughout the year. I can’t plan for my future. A couple of months ago a story on NPR interviewed a young lady who said she didn’t feel like she could afford to get married and have children because she had $80K of student debt….. I wondered what my $148K means….

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Jobs that require a degree in science and engineering also require harder courses, tend to have more job security. Yet how many college graduates majored in other less secure areas? Do you know?

      • Parisa

        I’m certainly in no position to tell someone what to major in. If higher education is just about a secure job, rather than a more informed and enlightened citizenry, then it isn’t worth anything more than job training. University is so much more than what you major in, and people pay for that experience, not just the courses.

        I paid for my (science) undergrad by serving in the military. I paid for law school with loans. I’ve had plenty of hard courses and challenged myself. I graduated with honors. I’m working for well below what a patent attorney should make because everyone wants at least 5 years experience as a brilliant attorney to hire me as a bottom-of-the-barrel beginner staff attorney.

        Let’s not pretend that this country’s student loan debt is just because young people are idealists who major in philosophical dance and theology and have no work ethic.

  • Ingrid

    This show is making me so angry. When I was in college, students were being gunned down in Tiananman Square in China and we were engaged and invested in voting for the first time. How can UC Berk students not understand the basic differences between the two candidates? That is completely unacceptable. My ten year old son who attends public school in Oakland can easily articulate the differences this election. So depressing.

  • The discussion about student loans is infuriating because an entire segment, graduate students. “In 2011-12, 67 percent of the $51.7 billion in student aid received by graduate students came from federal loans, yet federal loans accounted for just 38 percent of the $185.1 billion in aid received by undergraduates.” And yet even new Stafford loans, which are loans for the financially underprivileged, are now unsubsidized. Any candidate that discusses aiding the debt on students completely leave graduate students out of the discussion. This doesn’t just hurt those of us currently in grad school, but may forclose grad school for non-wealthy individuals in the future. I think that the candidates discussing how the government should be helping students and then never address grad students are being at least slightly disingenuous.

    • $11165038

      They also leave out of the discussion people like me who are older adults who went back to school to complete their education while working full time and are also carrying a bucket load of debt.

  • It’s depressing that so many of these young people are concerned only with the economy. There’s no question whom to vote for when it comes to the issue of climate change (or at the very least, whom to vote against) and I’d hoped that young people would be better informed on that issue. It is going to affect their lives, and their pocketbooks, more than any other issue.

  • Guest

    Im surpried how neglected the third party candidates are even in public radio. Im a student at Berkeley, and I think one of the most important issues is, in fact preservationof democracy (citizens united… etc). I was surprised to find out one of my friends, a senior in UCLA didnt know they could vote for someone other than Obama or Romney. Shouldn’t we focus more about third party candidate? Atleast they resonate with most of us youth voters…


    • laura

      I completely understand your frustration, but I can tell you from my perspective the reality is that we currently have 2 parties, just two, one of which will win the election and direct this country no matter what. There are not enough brave people in this country to overthrow this part of our system for this election So of the two who are you more comfortable with? Who will be more likely to fight for the things you believe in or allow enough room for divergent opinions to be heard? You guys are the future, your generation will be in charge one day, start showing up.

    • menloman

      You’re right about Citizen’s United. It preserved our first amendment rights of free speech. The left would have you believe the opposite was true. To them stopping speech was the goal. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission

  • Ben Armerding

    I’m 27 (I think that makes me a millennial – I was a student in Professor Krasny’s short story course five years ago). I’ve noticed that a lot of people my age connect with politics through facebook. It starts to be more of an issue of who can post the funniest comment on politics, or who found the funniest new meme or picture. I think this might be a worse source of information than even political ads because the point is humor and satire and not accuracy or action.

  • $11165038

    That person that commented that the older generation isn’t retiring because they didn’t save enough needs to be reminded that many of the older generation had their savings invested in the stock market and many had the value of your their savings disappear overnight when the stock market crashed in 2008. The other thing is why should someone have to retire if they are still willing and able to work?

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      I agree 100% with your comment ‘why should someone have to retire if they are still willing and able to work?’ The idea that someone has to retire has always puzzled me. Some of us love our work and hope never to retire. Its also known as the work ethic.

  • Sachinthya Wagaarachchi

    Im surpried how neglected the third party candidates are even in public radio. Im a student at Berkeley, and I think one of the most important issues is, in fact, preservation of democracy (citizens united… etc). I was surprised to find out one of my friends, a senior in UCLA didnt know they could vote for someone other than Obama or Romney. Shouldn’t we focus more about third party candidate? Atleast they resonate with most of us youth voters…

  • Why are ALL the commenters and ALL the young voices talking as if the ballot only has a top ticket. EVERY young person can find at least one LOCAL issue on their ballot (does their city or county want to make all pet shelters no kill?) that means something to them. And the more local the vote, the more their vote counts. If you don’t feel vested in the presidential election, guess what, no one is forcing you to mark that box, leave it blank. But the next judge who rules against you while you are fighting a traffic violation ticket could be a judge that your vote could have unseated had you bothered to at least mark the bottom boxes on your ballot.

  • Ross

    I feel like people don’t know the difference between an opinion and a fact. I think social media muddies this even more which makes millennials at risk of not understanding what is truly at stake, instead of just talking points (then throw in comedy and memes and it’s confusing). Voters need to take responsibility for finding out facts and hone their BS detector.

  • laura

    Bottom line pick a candidate and vote. If you don’t feel you can filter through the information, go with your intuition, who do yo trust to run the country?

  • Ellis

    Scapegoating is no solution. The reason
    the “baby boomers” don’t have enough money is/was due to
    declining wages and income over the last 30 years.

    A very important reason to is for
    things like Prop 30. It’s more than what’s on the top of the ticket.

    I would say to these young people, join
    the movement – United Front Against Austerity. One of its demands is
    for a student loan amnesty.


  • Kristilinamarie

    If you don’t think your vote for president counts, fine, but there are many local candidates and ballot initiatives that NEED your attention and votes!

  • I was always told I’d have a job IMMEDIATELY, as an RN. It took me nearly a year and a half to find work in my field after graduation– the reason why? Many of the current older nurses now are retiring because they lost their retirement as a result of GOP policies surrounding deregulation of Wall Street. It is very important that (all) people realize the differences between the two parties when it comes to the fundamental economic philosophies between the two parties.

  • Lance

    Part of the lack of youth voting is that parents don’t articulate the value of their vote. If parents don’t engage their children in the voting process local and national, it’s yet another barrier for first time voters.

  • Zeana Bey

    I’m 28 and in grad school and am reluctantly going to be voting for Obama this election. I’d prefer to be voting for a third party candidate as their visions for America seem to parallel mine the most but I don’t want to be risking throwing away my vote. Since the Bush vs Gore election I’ve been preached to about the dangers of voting third party, “every vote for Nader is a vote for Bush” , and this fear tactic has made moving beyond two party partisian politics and voting my conscience an unviable option. This desire to vote third party but fear of inadervently supporting a candidate we dislike as a result has been echoed by many of my friends. I can vote for the candidate I think will be best, I can vote for a candidate who is part of the two viable main parties despite not fully endorsing either or choose not to vote at all but every option is still considered wasting my vote.

    On a side note, Im waiting for details. Hope and change and five point plans are great but until either candidate can give the specific details of how they plan to accomplish their visions these are just bumper sticker platitudes.

    • Parisa

      Hi, Zeana. You should listen to Nader’s interview on the Forum a couple of weeks ago. It reminded me why people liked him so much. I believe he took about the same number of votes from both sides.

      I’m in a decidedly blue district; so, my vote is less important than others. But I’ve definitely decided to vote third party because I don’t think it’s ok to be scared into voting for one of the two parties that are less and less distinguishable as their stances are for sale. I think my vote should be personal, and it should mean something, and it should convey at least some of my convictions. I don’t want it to be a calculated vote designed to keep the worse candidate out. That devalues my voice — and yours. And I really think THAT is a wasted vote.

      Watch the third party debate that Larry King moderated, and tell me those voices shouldn’t be in the game, and if we shouldn’t at least seriously consider them for our votes.

    • Zeena, don’t wait for details seek them out. We have more information (from reliable sources and otherwise) than we’ve ever had. Do a little research. The NY Times’ endorsement for Pres. Obama was very persuasive about what he’s done and might do in another term. I love Ralph Nader and I’m all for third parties getting into the debates, but if Pres. Obama wins with a split vote electoral victory/popular vote loss, I am afraid the country will be even more divided than before. So consider that when you vote.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    .What is interesting to me is how many people encounter who tell me they don’t know all the issues on the ballot so wont be voting. Then seemed surprised when I tell them you do NOT have to vote on every issue on the ballot. Vote for one or two folks and issues you do know about.

    Of equal concern to me is the lack of long term vision. Are these young people asking who will pay the deep debt this nation has and who has the background to help get private sector jobs that create the taxes that will pay down the debt, and enable folks to buy a home, and needed goods? Romney seems to have the hands on knowledge as well as experience as a Governor to know both sides of the challenge. If you do not know how to run a business and make the hard and smart decisions you have no idea what businesses deal with.

    Obama is a great speaker, Sadly, the jobs he pushes like teachers, police, fire fighters all get paid with tax dollars. They don’t produce tax generating jobs that actually provide the tax base for funding everything the government needs to pay for, including debt reduction. And Obama said at a recent debate that we need more production jobs for college graduates. Yet, how many college graduates have gone to college and incurred college debt just so they can work on some production line at some company?

    Lastly, as a woman if I have a job I have medical coverage, including birth control coverage. And a job means I have the means to save for my retirement and future desires. As a woman I am more than my reproductive system!

  • I was shocked that no one challenged Lisa Garcia Bedolla when she said studies showed that during the Viet Nam war era numbers of young voters were no greater than they are now. During the VietNam war era, no one under 21 was allowed to vote. Most students could not vote even though they could serve in the military. Had we been able to vote, you can bet the war would have ended even sooner. Lisa’s comment discredited everything she said before that.

  • Jackie

    I think most people writing on this thread would be surprised at how informed the youth really and truly is. The Internet is a well of information and we are not ignorant of that. It is a powerful resource that we very much do utilize. The older generation fails to allow us any room to support ourselves. When we ask to have our student loans lowered, they are simply raised even despite peaceful protest. When we ask for jobs to pay for those loans or to even help our parents who can barely make ends meet, we’re forced into low wage service or restaurant jobs that don’t really pay the bills. The youth has very little resource because older generations belligerently condescend us as being lazy, having no work ethic, or being affected by apathy and so we don’t deserve opportunity. From my point of view, older generations act in a far more entitled manner than we do. We want to work so we can support ourselves, our families, and our country. We want to be just as successful as you are. -21 year old undergrad

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