People my age don't vote much. This election should break from that pattern. While a lower percent of 18-year-olds to 30-year-olds will vote than those in other age ranges, the percent will rise from 2000. And there's no guarantee that the youth vote will be a boon for Sen. John Kerry. In fact, the latest Washington Post/ABC poll shows George W. Bush holding a 53-41 percent lead among those aged 18 to 30, the highest level of support for Bush among any age group.
Young people are turning more and more away from the solutions of the Democratic Party. The old adage that as people age they tend to become more Republican is being turned on its head in this election: The Washington Post/ABC poll shows that Kerry's support comes from those among the 61 or older population. A September 2002 University of California at Berkeley study showed that on certain social issues, young people were more likely than their elders to slant conservative. Those between ages 15 and 22 showed markedly more support for school prayer, faith-based initiatives and government restrictions on abortion than adults over 26. Virginity rates are rising, and teenage pregnancy rates are dropping.
The evidence isn't unanimous, however. The 18 to 30 crowd has the lowest approval ratings for President Bush of any voting group. My peers largely support the gay activist agenda and higher education costs, and feel that depictions of violence and sex in mass media do little harm. Those virginity statistics may be misleading: There is a rising contingent of young people who have oral sex but still count themselves virgins. Only 41 percent of 18 to 30s say President Bush shares their values, while 45 percent say John Kerry does -- it's the only age group to sympathize with Kerry's values over Bush's.
So with the wide variance of views present in today's youth culture, why the support for Bush? Priorities. Young voters are less susceptible to scare tactics revolving around government programs like Social Security and Medicare. Only 8 percent of 18 to 30s cite health care as their top priority for this election, while 18 percent of those over 61 do. And we aren't afraid to think about different solutions for health care and Social Security, either. We realize that there are serious questions about the future feasibility of Social Security, and we believe we're well qualified to make choices about our own money. As for health care, we're not overly worried: At age 20, health care isn't your biggest concern.
On national security issues like Iraq and terrorism, Bush has a huge lead. Adults 18 to 30 trust President Bush over Kerry on Iraq, 60 to 33. They also trust Bush to handle terrorism by a margin of 59 to 35. They say that George W. Bush's policies will make America more secure than John Kerry's, 60 to 31. These levels of support are the highest among any age group. Most of all, people this age believe that George W. Bush is a leader, while John Kerry isn't -- the leadership question goes 65-25 for Bush. John Kerry is at a decided disadvantage in this area because he has made Vietnam his sole credential for national security expertise. Everyone in the 18 to 30 crowd is too young to remember Vietnam, much less care what happened on a swift boat over 30 years ago.
But what about the economy? Thirty-four percent of 18- to 30-year-olds rate the economy as their top priority -- and they support John Kerry over George W. Bush on it. They feel that John Kerry will be better at creating jobs than George W. Bush, 54 to 42 (the highest Kerry support in any age group). They narrowly disapprove of President Bush's economic policy, 49 to 48.
This is missing the most important statistic, however: Seventy percent of 18- to 30-year-olds feel that Americans are either as well off or better off economically than they were when George W. Bush took office. While many of my peers don't buy into President Bush's economic policies, they recognize that after an inherited recession, a series of devastating corporate scandals, and a terrorist attack on American soil, the economy is once again is decent shape.
In economic terms, we're a hopeful generation. We don't believe doomsayers who preach that this is the worst economy since the Great Depression. We don't buy the idea that we'll graduate from college or graduate school and end up bumming around on the streets. So whether or not we agree with President Bush, we're not single-issue voters.
The economy may be our top priority, but we're divided about who should handle it. It's then that we take a step back, look at the larger picture -- and see that national security dictates what happens economically. And on national security, there's no debate. We want strong leadership. We want to take the war to the terrorists. We want George W. Bush.
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