By Colleen Flaherty
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Obama's visit to "The Daily Show" was one sign of the sinking youth interest in the midterm elections. Another is what's going on at a political mentoring program for high school girls. In 2009 it received 30,000 applications. This year it was 1,000 at most.
Maegan Carberry, communications director of Rock the Vote, an organization dedicated to getting young people politically involved, says she's not surprised.
"The partisan bickering has definitely gotten to young voters," she said.
Carberry says candidates have a tendency during midterm elections to not campaign toward youth and focus on older, more dependable voters.
It seems to distance young women even more. Harvard's October survey found that 31 percent of young men and only 23 percent of women said they will definitely vote.
For the Republicans, however, Rob Lockwood, communications director for the College Republicans National Committee, says young support is growing. Lockwood said the group has recruited 25,200 new members in five target states--Ohio, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Florida--and 250,000 members nationwide.
Lockwood says there are several strong female candidates, such as gubernatorial candidates Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez, who are excellent role models for young conservative women.
"Now they have people they can look up to and aspire to be," said Lockwood.
Grounds, a former president of the Women Under Forty Political Action Committee, says it's important to draw younger women into politics.
"Most women tend to run for office as a third career. We need to change the dynamic. Let's show them it's possible to get involved when they're younger," Grounds said. Getting into politics earlier gives participants more time to gain recognition and acquire leadership roles.
Of the last 19 presidents, 12 began their political career before they were 35.
In the 110th Congress (2007-2009), a record number of women chaired House and Senate committees, states Running Start's Web site. But that only amounted to six chairs of roughly 40 committees.
Women currently account for 17 percent of Congress and 23 percent of state legislatures, according to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J.
Grounds shrugs off the loss of enthusiasm in young female voters this election year.
"We take the long approach at Running Start. We are investing in these young women," she said.
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Colleen Flaherty is a Women's eNews editorial intern and journalism major at Minnesota State University, Mankato.
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