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Archive for Monday, August 6, 1990

TURNED-OFF VOTERS

August 6, 1990

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Kansas University senior Lisa Hicks, head of the KU chapter of College Republicans, is a staunch supporter of incumbent Mike Hayden for governor.

Her counterpart in the KU Democrats organization, senior Pam McElwee, will cast her vote in Tuesday's primary election for former Gov. John Carlin.

The political science majors are certain of their beliefs about the political races, a fact that may place them in the minority among college students.

"I've always been interested in politics," McElwee said, "but some people view it as esoteric. People don't realize it affects everything they do."

Allan Cigler, KU professor of political science, said most 18- to 24-year-old students aren't turned on by politics, especially statewide primary elections.

"Politics is simply not that salient for people in that age range," he said. "At the state level there's not a heck of a lot of interest in any particular candidate."

"MOST OF those kids are involved in courtship concerns and education. Most are not paying property taxes," said Cigler, who teaches courses on political parties and elections.

He said political observers have been struck by recent media surveys that indicate leading candidates, such as Hayden and Carlin, have high unfavorable ratings, which might indicate low voter interest.

"And I will tell you that the level of political interest as it relates to elections strikes me as pretty low over the past year or two," the professor said.

Cigler said there are two reasons anyone would vote. People must believe that the race has meaning and that they can really make a difference with a vote.

"This generation generally is not very high in either of those two categories, compared to even previous generations," he said.

HE POINTED to a Times Mirror study that painted a portrait of a generation of young adults, from 18 to 29 years of age, who are indifferent toward public affairs.

Times Mirror researchers said it is a generation that "knows less, cares less, votes less and is less critical of its leaders and institutions than young people in the past."

"It indicated this was one of the most turned-off generations since they have done polling," Cigler said. "Not that they are dumb or uninterested, but they don't tend to be engaged in political matters.

"People usually go through a life cycle. They start with a little bit of indifference. As they grow older, they develop more stake and interest in the system.

"There has been nothing to engage this generation in today's politics," said Cigler, adding that the issue isn't apathy.

Although President Reagan did well among college students, Cigler said there hasn't been a candidate that has special appeal to the younger generation.

In addition, none of the eight candidates vying for the gubernatorial nominations in Kansas has done a good job interesting college-age voters, he said.

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