Generation 9-11: More Likely To Vote?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - Next week's elections, could stand conventional wisdom on its ear!

Knox County's Election Commission says this could be the first mid-term election in which voters cast more ballots early than on Election Day itself.

But Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd tells us this also could be the year, where the age group least likely to vote, is more likely to turn out.

America lowered the voting age to 18, just as Vietnam was winding down.

Ironically, post-Vietnam disillusionment, apathy, and cynicism has tended to discourage voting.

But a combination of factors, could turn Generation Y into Generation Why Not?

"This is obviously a very important campaign for the state of Tennessee."

"Like who controls the Senate."

"This race is getting really crazy."

The race that both candidates not only have kept in our faces, but at UT.

"Both major parties did major registration drives on campus this time," says Greg MacKay, from the Knox County Election Commission.

"And I would like to see a certain candidates in office. That's particularly why I voted," says UT Sophomore Beth Stewart.

"Campus did great. They voted over 2000 people there," says MacKay. "Interestingly enough, only about 25 percent of the people who voted there, were from the UT campus area.

So unless undergrads at UT, and most of the country, vote absentee, why would researchers predict that the number youngest voters casting ballots in this mid-term election would jump from its typically lousy 20 percent, to a third or more?

"Let's call them the children of 9/11," says Dr. Michael Fitzgerald, a political science professor at UT.

"As far as an issue, gosh, I would say the war would be an issue," says one student.

"They were politicized as a generation in such a way that makes them considerably more sensitive to international affairs, and the impact of politics," Dr. Fitzgerald says.

Political Science Professor Michael Fitzgerald's been studying the children of 9/11 for the Baker Center for Public Policy.

"Anytime you have a horse race about who is gonna run the Congress and turn on a seat here and a seat there," says Dr. Fitzgerald.

"I really need to get my opinion on record," says on student.

"Young people, like the rest of us, begin to think, my vote matters," Dr. Fitzgerald says.

"So ,I would have voted, even if I didn't have the prior disposition to vote," says UT Junior Jonathan McCarthy.

But is it disposition borne out of conviction?

"I just want to see, I'll come right out and say it, some more democrats in office, okay?"

Or gut reaction?

"I honestly don't think a lot of college students know the issues they're voting on. That's scary, yeah, it is kinda scary," says Freshman Katrina Brown.

Baker researchers though, believe the children of 9/11 may feel compelled to be heard because too much is at stake.

Most college undergrads were in middle or high school during 9/11.

2006 is at most, a 24-year-old's third major election.


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