While many of Aggi Ashagre’s college-age peers may see voting as unnecessary, the LSU sophomore plans to let her voice be heard this election.
“If we believe that nobody is listening to us, they are not going to listen to us,” Ashagre, of Baton Rouge, said.
Born in the United States a year after her parents immigrated from Ethiopia in 1991, Ashagre favors President Barack Obama. “Because my family is all immigrants, and we are a middle class family, and I’m a woman and a student, it seems like Obama has always had my best interests at heart.”
Cody Lott, a 2012 Live Oak High School graduate from Watson who is about to attend basic training for the U. S. Marine Corps, sees it differently.
If the Republican nominee, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, is elected, Lott said, “I see America getting better as far as economy goes and foreign policy because of military and diplomacy changes.”
According to CIRCLE (The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement), 16.8 million young people are newly eligible to vote in the Nov. 6 presidential election.
The thrill of casting a presidential ballot can attract young people to the polls, but history shows that many still won’t vote. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 46.7 percent of 18 to 24 year-old voters cast ballots in the 2004 presidential election, and 48.5 percent in 2008.
Take Gavin King, a college-age adult who like Ashagre admires the Democratic president’s ability to speak and connect with the public.
“When he speaks, I sense he is sincere,” said King, who took some classes at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. Even so, King had not yet decided whether to vote.
Young voters often feel a closer connection to the Democratic Party, said Laura Moyer, LSU political science professor, and the 2008 presidential election drew record numbers of young and first-time voters who cast ballots for Obama.
According to an exit poll conducted by National Election Pool, 68.1 percent of first-time voters cast ballots for Obama in 2008.
But pollsters do not expect a repeat turnout this year.
Kirby Goidel, a political analyst and director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, said that young, new voters are less likely to turn out in this election compared to 2008, because they are not as excited about Obama in 2012.
Casper Anderson, a Baton Rouge Magnet High School senior, said he plans to vote for Obama, but is not enthusiastic.
“If Obama is in office again, I feel it would be just another cycle, and with Mitt Romney, I do not endorse his ideas about the economy and I feel as if he does not show as much favor towards minorities,” he said.
While young voters may trend Democratic, there are those, particularly around the red state of Louisiana, who are pulling for a Republican victory.
Baton Rouge Magnet High senior Thomas Rivers said he favors Romney’s plan to cut taxes and repeal the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.
“I do not think government should have that big of an influence in my life,” Rivers said.
Kayla Ashford, a senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High, also leans toward Romney.
“If America keeps going in the direction it is, it will be a very tough world to start college in,” she said.
First-time voters often acquire political insight from the opinions of family, social organizations, and/or churches, Moyer said.
Both Rivers and Ashford agreed that their parents have a major impact on their political opinions, but insisted that individual study is the key to their personal opinions.
Anderson explained that his father influences his political opinion through explanations of what should be done and what is actually being done in D.C.
But Lott said his political thought goes counter to that of his family.
“My family members are pretty much all Democrats, and I don’t share their views of democratic liberalism,” he said.
Political parties are also seeking to influence the young voters.
Peter Petrakis, a political science professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, said that the campaigns are using digital communication technologies in hopes of reaching the young, computer generation.
He credited social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, with vast political influence among young, first-time voters.
But as with older voters, issues could be deciding factors.
While college and financial aid are among the concerns for first-time voters, jobs and the economy also are influencing factors with students saying they are finding it harder to find jobs while in or out of school.
“Jobs are down and unemployment is up,” Rivers said.
Lott agreed. “Everyone is feeling the problems coming from the recession, even the kids.”
Chase Lindsey is a senior at Live Oak High School
in Livingston Parish.
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