Out of 200 students polled in a recent Torch survey, only 45 percent said that they would vote in the upcoming New York City primary.
However, according to Dr. Robert Pecorella, a government and politics professor at St. John’s, student interest in this year’s election seems much higher than usual – a characteristic he attributes to Barack Obama.
“Students are really rallying behind Barack Obama,” he noted.
“As he [Obama] even noted recently, it’s very much a battle of past versus future – the past being Hillary Clinton, and the future being young voters.”
In fact, according to newvotersproject.org, youth voter turnout increased by 24,000 in the Iowa caucus and increased by 53,000 in the New Hampshire primary.
Dr. Pecorella also said that this year’s New York primary is much more important than it has been in the past. “Normally, the candidate is already decided by the time the New York primary rolls around,” he said. “But this time, our primary will count for a lot.”
As Dr. Pecorella pointed out, the youth vote is historically a dangerous thing for a candidate to bank on. “Most of the time in the past,” he said, “candidates who have counted on young voters have failed – even the young voters in the 60’s generation were unreliable.”
Stephen Holland, the communications director of St. John’s College Democrats, agreed that this year’s New York primary is more important than usual, but that the youth turnout is questionable at best. “People don’t feel that the election matters,” he said. “Or they think that their vote doesn’t make a difference.”
Holland, along with the rest of College Democrats, is planning an organized walk to the local polling station. “It will hopefully make more people want to come,” he explained. “People will feel comfortable walking with friends and other registered voters.” But student apathy, as Holland noted, is still very high at St. John’s. “There are hundreds of student members in College Democrats – on paper. But only 20 to 25 come to our usual meetings.”
As Dr. Pecorella pointed out, this year’s election has “no designated successor,” resulting in “wide open primaries” that students should genuinely be interested in. “My advice is always the same,” he said. “If you’re interested, get involved. And if you’re not interested, then try to figure out why you’re not.”
In a fall 2007 survey conducted by the Harvard Institute of Politics, results were similar to the one conducted by the Torch, with 41 percent of students saying that they would vote in the primaries, while 61 percent of students said they would vote in the general election. More than 2,500 students across the nation, ages 18-24, participated in that survey, which is conducted twice a year. In the Harvard Institute of Politics poll, 77 percent of students said they are registered to vote. When asked which side of the political spectrum they lean towards, 32 percent said liberal, followed by moderate and conservative, both with 21 percent, moderate-leaning liberal with 14 percent, and moderate-leaning conservative with 12 percent. Students were also asked if they had ever volunteered on a political campaign (13 percent of students said yes), attended a political rally (21 percent said yes), or if they had ever signed an online petition (58 percent said yes).
Senior Joe Cosmo is one St. John’s student that does not plan on voting in the upcoming primary. “Most of my friends and I don’t really like any one candidate over another, so I don’t really see the point.”
Junior Chris Imparato, on the other hand, feels strongly about participating in Super Tuesday. “It’s important that everyone get involved,” he said. “It’s the only way we can have a voice.”
Additional reporting by Everton Bailey and Aliza Moorji