A survey conducted among young voters at Arizona State University shows that although a big majority of students are registered to vote, many are not politically active and don’t keep up with political news. Arizona State University Public Policy professor David Wells and ASU journalism graduate Richard Flores will discuss the survey and attitudes among young voters.
Ted Simons: A survey of young voters at ASU shows that although a majority of students are registered to vote, many are not politically active and don't keep up with political news. Joining us now is ASU public policy professor David Wells, and also here to discuss the poll is ASU journalism graduate Richard Flores. Good to have you both here. Thanks for joining us.
David Wells: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Who was surveyed, and why?
David Wells: Well, I teach this media politics class every other year, the spring of election years, and one of our goals that we learn about media in politics and we want to figure out how can we have an impact? What would be a useful thing that we could do and the class came up with the brilliant idea of trying to survey downtown ASU students to get a sense of their political involvement so we could connect it to national surveys and get us some kind of a comparison.
Ted Simons: I noticed one of the things that stood out is how much time spent consuming news, 30% of males a half hour at least, and only 10% of females with news consumption to that level?
David Wells: Yeah. We noticed a gender difference. And the good news, Richard can talk more about it, but is that journalism students consume more news than non-journalism --
Ted Simons: well, they better. But did the numbers overall, do they surprise you.
Richard Flores: Not really. I found -- We found it was 80% of people spent less than 30 minutes watching the news. I think it pretty much goes to where I thought, the fact that younger people, they just don't have the time a lot of times to watch the news. So what they'll do, we found as well is that -- About 65% of people got their news from online. I think that's where everything is going, is online. As a journalism student I very well know that.
Ted Simons: I was going to ask you, is that a good question as far as watching news or getting news by traditional methods as opposed to being informed in some other way? Are these kids still informed just not in the traditional ways?
Richard Flores: I think -- I don't think they are. Because a lot of issues are complicated. We asked about immigration reform, we ask about gun control. But they weren't as interested in that as something as easy as gay marriage, which causes very strong reactions from a lot of people. We found I think it was close to 45, 50% of people felt very strongly in terms of them wanting them to get out and vote because of that.
Ted Simons: The numbers surprise you at all?
David Wells: Not tremendously. A lot of it matches up with the national campaigns. And a key thing is that independent voters are the most common thing we're seeing here. And one of the things that really matches up strongly with other data is that independent voters are less likely to vote. We asked whether they voted in 2012, which is a presidential election. And what was really interesting, the students who aligned with either Republican or Democratic politics were about three to one more likely to vote as not to vote. But the independents were just 55, 45.
Ted Simons: Are these independents, are they truly independents or are they Republicans and democrats who just don't know it yet?
David Wells: They're leaning Democratic. It was based on, if you look at how they answer other questions. The independents, they liked Obama. Republicans didn't like Obama, Democrats did. The independents not as much as democrats, but the independents liked Obama. The independents did not like the Republican party, about two to one. They were slightly unfavorable toward the democrats but pretty close. And they didn't like governor Brewer or the state legislature. So they didn't seem to have very positive attitudes toward what Republicans did, so they were more in line with where democrats were. But they're not as connected to politics.
Ted Simons: Is that the big grand middle here, these independents who again, may not -- Maybe on one side of the fence pretty strongly, but they just aren't aware of it yet?
Richard Flores: We talked to several people who were part of campaigns and they pretty much said the same thing. People are becoming more independent who are younger voters, and those people, there's -- We found there was about 80-million people millenials, more than the baby boomers and that's why they're so important going forward, as they get older maybe they'll find themselves trying to figure out which party they're going to.
Ted Simons: If you are a party, trying to attract these particular voters, what do you do? How do you get their attention, how do you hold it? How do you win them?
Richard Flores: The biggest thing to me, we didn't ask about this, I wish we would have, which is, college affordability. Someone who just graduated I can tell you, it's expensive to go to school. This is something we're not hearing from democrats or the Republicans. How they're going to get college affordability down. I think if they can focus on that, maybe they would get younger people excited to vote. It affects their pocketbook.
Ted Simons: How do parties react to this kind of information? You got a grand prize out there hanging around the middle, how do you get them on your side?
David Wells: It's complex. I think issues are a key part of it. And there were only two issues that -- We know we didn't ask about lots of issues, but things like gun control didn't poll very well. Comprehensive immigration reform actually polled strongly for Republicans, democrats, and independents as something that was a high priority for them. And same-sex marriage also polled highly for democrats and independents. It didn't poll that well for Republicans. So if you're talking to your -- To the other issue, which you typically want with any campaign, that's something that's going to get them more excited and that's probably one of the reasons why same-sex marriage, if the Supreme Court doesn't intervene might be on the ballot in 2016 because it will be a strategy by democrats to get those folks out.
Ted Simons: So you have what seems to be the largest undecided political population in memory if not history. Could there be a third party developed from this?
David Wells: Not likely. It's really hard for a third party to win. You think about Ross PEROT, he got 20% of the vote and he got zero electoral votes. It's really hard, and nothing really came of that politically. And right now the Republicans are doing everything in their power to make the Tea Party go away. And even though -- So it's really hard to get a third party off and running.
Ted Simons: Your fellow students ever talk about a third party, ever say pox on both houses, anything along those lines?
Richard Flores: Not really. It's pretty strongly Republican/democrat. You look at people like Rand Paul, they try to get the Tea Party started but they didn't gain enough traction in the general election. It's one of those things, I just don't see it happening with younger voters. Unless they tend to go more libertarian as well, I think people are so disaffected by government, I think if anything libertarians might make the move.
Ted Simons: Might make a move, but how much of a move?
Richard Flores: I just don't see it eclipsing Republicans and democrats because they have more money and more support behind them.
Ted Simons: As opposed to things that are directly affecting this population, the price of college, and those sorts of things, if I'm a political operative, and I'm seeing this great huge mass in the middle, we can't seem to get their attention, what would you suggest? How would you get their attention?
Richard Flores: Go to social media. I mean, that's - Like I said, people-- That's where they get their news from. A lot of people are on it. You're looking at a population where I think a Harvard study found 87% of people are on either Facebook or twitter. And I think that's interesting. I think that's where they've got to go. They've got to start putting their message out online, making it quicker and easier to digest.
Ted Simons: I can be the Fuddiest of the duddiest of politicians and have my own twitter and Facebook and, you know, and myspace if I want to get back to the distant past here, I can do all that stuff, but is that going to convince you that I'm thinking of you?
Richard Flores: I think it can. I think it can. But they have to learn how to do it right. The challenge they're facing is, we did some research on this in class and trying to figure out how politicians use twitter and Facebook and stuff like that. So I thought they just weren't doing it quite right. They weren't talking about the issues as much as they were, oh look, here's a picture of my family.
Ted Simons: Richard mentions class. What about the teaching of civics? The education of kids to get them more involved, to get them paying attention more, and more engaged?
David Wells: I think in a lot of classes it's really important for students to be involved. The legislature passed a bill a few years ago that required that the constitution be put by the American flag in the classrooms. Those are passive things. The idea is to actually get students involved to know they actually can make a change, an impact on things. When they do that, then they can get sort of catch the bug and realize -- Unfortunately we live in a time when the parties are at lager heads, they don't seem to want to get anything done and it's really dis-enfranchising to them to experience that all the time.
Ted Simons: But you as an educator, how do you give them that bug?
David Wells: Oh, I do whatever I can. In my larger POLYSCI class we did Riley versus California and Sebelius against hobby lobby as actual little cases that students argued and read about and when the court makes their final decision in a month or so, I'll tell them how it came out and they can see whether they agree.
Ted Simons: Alright, what's your final word on this -- What do we as a society take from these numbers?
Richard Flores: I think it's the fact that like I said before, millenials are the next generation of people. They'll be the ones controlling this country in 20 years. People like myself. That's why it's so important to get them out to vote and excited about politics.
Ted Simons: Alright, well good to have you both here. Thanks for the numbers. Thanks for the information.
David Wells: Thank you.
Ted Simons: Tomorrow on "Arizona Horizon," we'll meet a local high school students who won a top award at an international science fair in the category of electrical and mechanical engineering. That's tomorrow at 5:30 and 10 right here on the next "Arizona Horizon."
That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.
David Wells:Public Policy Professor, Arizona State University; Richard Flores:Journalism Graduate, Arizona State University;