The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Young, Pro-Gay, Non-Voters.

I’ve written before about young people being more likely to support same-sex marriage and equality for gay and lesbian Americans, and how it’s an encouraging sign for the future. Via Boi from Troi comes more encouraging news that the majority of college freshman support same-sex marriage, according to a recent study.

Acceptance of same-sex marriage grew from 2005 to 2006.

The study found that 61% of incoming freshmen last year agreed that same-sex couples should have the right to marriage, up 3.3 percentage points from 2005.

Based on a paper questionnaire given to 271,441 first-time, full-time college students at 393 schools nationwide in 2006, the annual survey was conducted as part of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program under UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. The researchers statistically adjusted the data to reflect the demographics of the 1.3 million incoming freshmen entering four-year schools throughout the U.S. in 2006.

…While the majority of freshmen overall support same-sex marriage, the issue divides students along ideological lines. Four out of 5 liberals support same-sex marriage, compared with 1 out of every 3 conservatives.

Regarding abortion, 78.4% of liberal freshmen agree that the procedure should be legal, compared with 31.8% of conservative students.

But that news should be taken with a grain of salt, based on another poll.

A Pew Research poll from earlier this month indicates pretty much the same thing, but with one very important caveat. Those pro-gay young people are less likely to vote.

The study also found a great acceptance for same-sex marriage. Forty-seven percent of those age 18 to 25 favor allowing gays and lesbians to marry while 30 percent of those 26 and older favor gay marriage.

… The study found that the young adults:

–Are less inclined to vote than older generations, though young voter turnout was up significantly in 2004. About 54 percent of those from 18 to 24 voted in 2004, and 74 percent of those 25 and over voted, Keeter said.

The question is why are these young people less inclined to vote than their elders? it can’t be for lack of issues that affect them. Take student loans, for example. The president just rejected the Democrats’ plan to lower interest rates on student loans, after six years of the administration and Congress doing little to help alleviate student debt or increase aid to low income students

The Bush administration rejected a Democratic plan to cut interest rates on federally backed student loans, saying it instead preferred that Congress concentrate on funding direct-aid programs.

“Student debt loads have soared in recent years, and it is not clear that encouraging more loans is a wise course,” the White House’s Office of Management and Budget said in a written statement. The administration instead favors increasing grant aid to low-income students, the OMB said.

The U.S. House of Representatives, as part of a legislative package it has promised to enact in its “first 100 hours” after taking control this year from Republicans, plans to cut in half over five years the 6.8 percent rate on federally backed college loans.

There’s the Federal Reserve Chairman’s prediction that aging baby boomers will bust the economy (think Social Security), right around the time these young voters will be entering the workforce.

Is it that these issues haven’t been explained to young voters in a compelling way? Or is it that those same baby boomers still dominate the political arena, don’t appear to be ready to recede from the national stage, and can’t manage to reach younger voters? Is it that younger voters don’t quite trust their elders in either party? Is it that “Generation Y” hasn’t yet realized its potential as a sleeping giant? After the 2006 mid-term election, Chris Bowers pointed out that this segment of voters is the largest generation since the baby boomers, and that they made up part of the Democrats’ winning coalition last November, with more than 60% turning out for Democrats. And this is the second year in a row that’s happened.

What it means for the future depends on whether politicians can reach this generation of voters as well as how these young voters define themselves. Dubbed the “Look at Me Generation,” due to their overwhelming presence and participation in social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook, they seem not to define themselves quite as monolithically as the boomers before them. That may mean that the leaders they choose and the solutions they support in the future will have less to do with cultural categories like party, religion, or sexual orientation than with how they will be affected as individuals.

That is, if politicians and policymakers can get their attention first.

2 Comments

  1. The main problem, I think, is that we’re getting to a point where votes have stopped mattering. There’s also the problem of personalities- you either find people who don’t have them or people who frantically try to compromise at every point (i.e. Sen. Clinton.) The partisan tone of politics also tends to turn people off- I can’t talk politics with my friends or I’d lose them. There are a lot more reasons of course, but I’ll leave you to chew on those

  2. Yanno, as a Gen X-er, I am really sick of these young punks stealing our slacker thunder! We were the original slackers, the original apathetic non-voters! Kids today are just a buncha poser wannabes! They don’t know from lazy! I’ll show ’em lazy!

    Um… later, I mean.

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