Young Voters Keeping Eyes on WH Race

Young adults are paying more attention to the 2004 presidential campaign than they did four years ago, according to an ongoing survey that monitors voter interest.

Polling done by the Vanishing Voter Project (search) in the week before the March 2 Super Tuesday primaries found that nearly half of adults between the ages of 18 and 30 said they had read, seen or heard an election news story within the past day. In 2000, just over a third said that was the case.

Compared with 2000, young adults were also more likely to say they had talked about the campaign -- by 39 percent to 29 percent -- and were more likely to say they had been thinking about the campaign -- by 43 percent to 26 percent four years ago.

"I think the war is the main driver," said Thomas Patterson, a political scientist at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. "When you look at the history of young people's involvement, when there is a war, they tend to take more interest and get more involved."

Patterson, who runs the Vanishing Voter project, said young adults have been about evenly divided between the parties. In a recent Associated Press-Ipsos poll, they were closely divided between President Bush and Democrat John Kerry (search). Young voters were about evenly split between Bush and Democrat Al Gore (search) in 2000, according to exit polls.

The turnout in 2000 for those 18-24 was 32.3 percent of people of voting age, compared to 54.7 percent for all voters, according to the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate (search). That turnout rate has fallen steadily over the last four decades.

Nearly three in five of the young adults in the Vanishing Voter poll said the election would have "a great deal" or "quite a bit" of impact on the future of the country.

The poll of 1,000 adults was taken Feb. 25-29 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, larger for subgroups like young voters.