By DAVID BAUDER
NEW YORK – Young people are tuning out the presidential campaign in such numbers that they may be the most disconnected group of potential voters in the nation’s history, MTV’s top researcher said today.
Surveyed a month before the election, one quarter of people ages 18 to 24 couldn’t name both presidential candidates without prompting, and 70 percent couldn’t identify the vice presidential candidates.
“There seems to be a finite window of opportunity to engage young people and that window seems to be closing,” said Betsy Frank, executive vice president of research for MTV Networks.
Only one-third of young people polled in July said they were certain to vote in November, MTV said. That compares with 57 percent in July 1992, when young people were energized by the campaigns of Bill Clinton and Ross Perot.
Subsequent polling as the campaign has heated up this year found more young people interested – but still not up to levels of previous campaigns, Frank said.
These people aren’t necessarily apathetic; they just don’t see the relevance of politics to their lives, she said. Seventy percent of those polled identified issues they were concerned with, but only 30 percent said they were interested in politics and government, she said.
To explain a lack of participation, young people cited a confidence that the country is doing well already, a belief in local activism instead of voting and a feeling that politics represents “big money and gross exaggerations,” she said.
Potential young voters also aren’t interested in issues that have dominated the campaign, including Medicare, Social Security and prescription drugs, she said.
“Young people don’t think politicians are listening to them and politicians see low turnout among this group and don’t think young people care what they have to say,” she said. “So there’s a growing communication gap.”
The numbers didn’t surprise a representative from Youthvote2000, which is working on voter registration efforts across the country.
“They’re very accurate and we’re very concerned about it,” said Julia Cohen, executive director.
Many young voters think Al Gore and George W. Bush aren’t talking about issues that concern them, said Erica Terry, a 26-year-old representative of MTV’s “Choose or Lose” campaign.
The voter information was commissioned by MTV and Time magazine and was based on five telephone polls by Peter D. Hart Research and John McLaughlin and Associates conducted between October 1999 and this month.
More than 600 people were questioned in each poll and the margin of error was plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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