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Ask them, and young people will vote

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Young Americans have more faith in the UN than Congress. More tend to volunteer or to boycott a product than to vote. Most say politics is relevant but don't go to the polls. With stats like these, it's hard to believe the youth vote on Nov. 7 may break a record.

But a survey done for Harvard University's Institute of Politics found 32 percent of 18-24-year-olds say they "definitely" plan to vote Tuesday.

If that holds true, the turnout for this age group would beat the all-time high of 26.6 percent for a midterm election, set in 1982.

The average youth turnout for the past four midterms has been 21 percent, while for those voters over 25, the average was 51 percent. That's quite a difference in voting rates to make up.

For a generation in which 93 percent don't read a newspaper and most think comedy TV news is a prime source of public information, a high turnout at the polls would be a welcome respite from youthful cynicism and their sense of powerlessness.

It might be easy to assume that young people are being driven to the polls by their concerns for hot-button issues, such as a US exit from Iraq. But in the 2004 presidential election, young voter turnout increased more than in any election since 18-to-20-year-olds won the right to vote for president in 1972.

Perhaps the US is reaping years of efforts by high schools and colleges to instill students with a sense of citizen duties and community service (or what is now called "civic engagement").


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