February 10, 2002
John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Candidates, political parties and the media have treated young people as irrelevant to the political process. Yes, too many young people stay home on Election Day. However, 18 million voters under the age of 30 did vote in 2000; and even more voted in the 2004 presidential election. Through our research, we have learned many of the reasons that young people do not vote and that candidates and campaigns do not seriously court this constituency. Since 2000, we have been conducting frequent surveys of America's college students, learning much about their political views, the role of community and public service in their lives, and their hopes for the future. Our findings may surprise you.
  • Young people are not apathetic. They care deeply about key political issues and they believe that elections matter. Nearly two-thirds say they will "definitely" vote this November.
  • Young voters are not monolithic; they are highly independent. Most young voters are neither traditional conservatives nor liberals. They are generally centrists whose votes are up for grabs.

This report draws from our research, as well as research conducted by some of the nation's other leading organizations dedicated to promoting youth political and civic engagement.