By Robyn Gee
A dominant narrative about young voters is that they are apathetic, and aren’t expected to come out to the polls this November.
Even John Della Volpe, Harvard’s Director of Polling and many news sources’ go-to-guy for political statistics, told Youth Radio, “I believe that young people are slowly but steadily losing trust in a lot of public institutions that are responsible for managing the country. The fact that they are losing faith means that they are less likely to vote, and less likely to see that their vote actually matters and that it’s something of value.”
But Heather Smith, President of Rock the Vote, disagrees. “I think that’s just wrong. I spend a lot of time with high school and college students and I can tell you, they care a lot about what is going on in their communities and their lives,” she said in an interview with Youth Radio.
Rock the Vote threw a youth vote concert featuring popular DJ Steve Aoki in Tampa, FL during the Republican National Convention. Smith said smart political candidates will pay attention to young voters.
“When the Republican party sees young people voting two to one for the Democrats, they tend to ignore them. But that is a huge mistake. Once people start voting for a party, they tend to vote for that party for life,” she said.
She hopes that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will follow Barack Obama’s example from 2008 and spend time where young people congregate. “One of the easiest places is college campuses because there are hundreds of thousands of young people,” she said. “They need to leave this convention and not only talk about issues like Medicare and Social Security, but talk about issues like finding a job after college or student loans…. If they do that, yeah — I am positive young people will respond. They are looking for leadership and solutions to the places that we face today.”